A relatively unknown club at Purdue is beginning to receive national recognition for their competitive engineering designs.
Purdue started its International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) team in 2006, being one of the first in the Big Ten to do so. Its purpose and main focus was to use biological engineering to develop the field of synthetic biology to help society advance.
Initially earning only bronze medals in competitions, Purdue’s team remained largely unnoticed within the international iGEM community. However, earning gold medals the past two years and returning last week from the North American Jamboree in Toronto, winning third place in North America, has encouraged the team for the future.
Amanda Shanley, a senior in the College of Engineering and president of iGEM, said this was a big deal for Purdue to have its iGEM team not only advance as far as it did, but also winning third place in North America. She said it meant beating well-known competitors like MIT, Stanford, Cornell and Yale as well as the other 65 teams competing.
“A couple years ago, (in) 2010, iGemers didn’t think of Purdue as competition,” Shanley said. “We went back this year and I knew people from the previous year that were like, ‘Purdue, they’re a really good team, they’re someone to watch out for.’ We’re starting to have that reputation within iGEM.”
The recent victory for Purdue’s iGEM team has increased their drive to not only perform better in future competitions, but attract more talent to their team. Chris Thompson, a sophomore in the College of Engineering and vice president of iGEM, said he wants Purdue and the community to recognize iGEM as a nationally successful team.
“I always thought when I first came to Purdue that no one knew about iGEM because of how different of an organization it is,” Thompson said. “We do genetic engineering as a club. You see the solar race team or the Rube Goldberg team, and those are cool things, but everyone knows about them and no one knew about iGEM. Why?”
Peter Mercado–Reyes, a junior in the College of Agriculture and treasurer of iGEM, agrees with Thompson’s sentiments that iGEM should become well known soon.
“We’re trying to make this a legacy at Purdue, like (Purdue) Dance Marathon started out as just a couple people and now they’re a huge committee,” Mercado–Reyes said. “That’s what we want for iGEM. We’re trying to establish a brand and presence at Purdue. This is something Purdue can take pride in and could be a really big thing.”