What is iGEM?
The first in a series of posts reflecting on the meaning of iGEM
by Linda Kahl
At some point in time, many of us, if we are mindful, will begin to ask the ‘big’ questions in life – Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of my life?
When I joined the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation, I found many at iGEM HQ were asking the same questions about iGEM. It makes sense that now would be the time to be asking those questions. After all, iGEM is now 16 years old. In people years, age 16 is a time of adolescence, of transition, of questioning.
As I began poking about the archives, I soon learned the question “What is iGEM?” is not easy to answer. In fact, iGEM is downright difficult to define because iGEM means so many things to so many people.
For example, some see iGEM as an educational program and training ground for future synthetic biologists:
While others see iGEM as the birthplace of start-up companies:
And still others see iGEM as an object of study:
Of course, when trying to define something it is sometimes easier to start with what it is not. From my own experience as a former judge and Human Practices committee member, I’ve learned that …
iGEM is not a science fair;
iGEM is not merely a student competition;
and iGEM is definitely not boring!
Still, the question remains “What is iGEM?” Rather than attempt to answer in a single blog post, I’d like to ask you – the reader of this post – “What does iGEM mean to you?”
Perhaps you are an iGEM student or advisor or committee member, or one of the over 40,000 iGEMers that have participated in the iGEM competition over the past 16 years. Or maybe your company spun out of an iGEM project. Or maybe your company has sponsored iGEM teams. Or maybe you are learning about iGEM for the very first time. Regardless, there must be some reason you are interested in iGEM. Your perspective is unique and valuable and I’d love to hear from you!
Please send your reflections on “What does iGEM mean to you?” to blog@iGEM.org where your responses will be compiled along with the reflections of others and shared in future blog posts. And please keep following or, better yet, contribute your ideas, questions and comments to the iGEM blog!