The UM team has been devoting to the preparation for the 2020 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition since April this year. The students are excited to meet over 240 iGEM teams worldwide to present their project and share ideas in iGEM Giant Jamboree which will be held from 14 to 22 November 2020 in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The students all recognized the benefits brought to them during their preparation for the competition.
Being the team leader, FHS Year 3 student Yuzhao FENG is responsible for scheduling and organizing the iGEM project scheme to ensure all works are performed well and on time. She had to engage in most of the tasks in sub-groups to keep the project moving along. She admitted that it was challenging to foster collaboration and teamwork but she was glad to improve her interpersonal skills when communicating with her team members. She learnt that a good plan was important for balancing the workload of the project and the studies of the team members particularly during the midterm and exam periods.
FHS Year 3 students Shuyao XIE and Chat Tat LEONG who are the members of the wet laboratory team have been working hard with the research experiments. The arrangement of laboratory works for teammates was much tougher than their expectations. They have been trying their best to listen to and communicate with their teammates to bring the best from them for betterment of the project. When facing repeated experimental failure, they had to motivate the teammates who were depressed and directionless.
Sun DI, FST Year 3 student, is responsible for designing the iGEM team wikipedia pages and writing codes. He has also built the mathematical 2D and 3D model for simulating the situation if the engineered bacteria are added to the aquarium, and discussed the modeling with Tsinghua University which is also one of the members of the Anti-Biofilm Community. He reflected that iGEM competition has provided an opportunity for him to gain experiences in mathematical model for improving simulation models in the future.
In addition to the enhancement of the academic knowledge, FHS Year 3 students Hoi Chen LEONG, Xuemeng LI and FHS Year 4 student Changchen LU who assist in promoting their project via various media for the team have also enhanced their soft skills. They have learnt to use design software and video editor for setting up the team’s web page. “After finishing each task, I got a sense of accomplishment with satisfaction,” said Hoi Chen LEONG. She has also worked with her teammate, Hengyi FU, another FHS Year 3 student, for the arrangement of the outreach activities, the high school talk, end-user interviews and the Conference of China iGEMer Community. Both of them valued the advantages brought by the competition, “The iGEM competition helps us in developing soft skills outside the classroom.”
Chengzong HOU, Huichao ZHAO and Changchen LU, FHS Year 4 students, found it hard to balance the time between their final year project and their iGEM works. Chengzong HOU admitted that connection was not strong enough among the sub-groups of the team at the beginning. Yet, they overcame the communication barriers and cooperated to finish the task eventually.
Lu Rochelle YU, FHS Year 3 student, is proud to be a member of the UM iGEM team. She mentioned, “The competition fostered our friendship and connection, and helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses.” Lesi CHAN, FHS Year 3 student, has taken up the secretarial role to handle the documentary work of the team. She was given an opportunity to try something new, “Secretarial work is interesting, and I am able to know more about the project and different works accomplished by different sub-groups. Trying new things helps me expand my perspective on life.”
The students are all grateful for the advice and support from the members of the UM iGEM team last year and the project advisors, FHS Assistant Professor Leo Tsz On LEE, Associate Professors Ruiyu XIE and Tzu-Ming LIU. They acknowledge the positive impact of the competition which is conducive to their development, both academically and personally. They are all looking forward to interacting with the judges and other iGEMers in the upcoming iGEM Giant Jamboree at a scale never before experienced.