TPHS Synthetic Biology Club in Carmel Valley wins prize at international competition


The Torrey Pines High School Synthetic Biology Club recently brought home the “Best Experimental Measurement” prize in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) High School Competition held June 28-29 at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Cambridge, Mass. This year’s High School division included 30 teams from nine countries. “This was an impressive result for the first year of operation of the TPHS Synthetic Biology Club.”

The TPHS team members were Eric Chen, Hope Chen, Brian Choi, Naim Kassira, Gha Young Lee, Michael Margolis, Nicki Nikkhoy, Mokhshan Ramachandran, Brandon Read, Minh Tran, Cindy Yang and Tareq Younis.

The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) is the premiere undergraduate Synthetic Biology competition. Student teams are given a kit of biological parts at the beginning of the summer from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. Working at their own schools over the summer, they use these parts and new parts of their own design to build biological systems and operate them in living cells.

“This project design and competition format is an exceptionally motivating and effective teaching method.” In 2011 iGEM expanded to include a High School Division that starts in the winter and an Entrepreneurship Division in 2012.

Seven of the 12-member team of the TPHS Synthetic Biology Club were able to travel to Cambridge recently where they presented and defended their iGEM competition project. The project entailed engineering a repressible promoter from the LasR quorum sensing system found in Pseudomonas Aeruginosa bacterium with the aim of expanding the toolkit available to synthetic biologists. With the exception of some work needing special equipment done at UCSD, the majority of the experimental wet lab work was done on campus under the supervision of TPHS science teacher Brinn Belyea, with primary mentoring from UCSD PhD candidates Spencer Scott along with John De Friel and Daniel Jacobsen, all from the UCSD Biodynamics Lab, and with sponsorship and donations from New England Biolabs, Life Technologies and generous community members through the TPHS Foundation.

About iGEM:

iGEM Main link:

TPHS team wiki at iGEM:

iGEM High School Division page: