Students from diverse backgrounds at the University of Alberta have come together to form the Ingenuity Lab Future Innovators iGEM team. We come from a broad range of scientific disciplines, such as biology, biochemistry, microbiology and chemical engineering. With a macroscopic view overlooking the picturesque River Valley in Edmonton AB, we are a team of scientists that is passionate about discovering the intricate folds and details that are found in the microscopic world.
The main focus of our project is on designing 3D DNA origami structures, which at the nanoscale, self assembles in a hierarchical order to form a scaffold for complex gold nanowire circuits. We plan on developing a new assembly standard that will allow nanocircuit construction. One of the applications we are exploring is attaching photosystem II protein purified from Synechocystis 6803 to the nanowire to generate a usable current and form a nanoscale battery. Our DNA Origami nanocircuitry design can be adapted to more complex circuits for potential applications in various fields like health sciences. In other words, the DNA moulds gold nanoparticles to grow into the desired shape, pattern and complex components needed for programmable circuits.
Introducing the Ingenuity Team:
Dawson Zeng recently graduated from University of Alberta with a double major in Biology and Chemistry. This is his second year competing in iGEM (Alberta 2013). He is strong believer in using multidisciplinary approaches to understand and standardize biology. His journey began from a Biohack guest lecture by Andrew Hessel on campus. Since then his fascination and curiosity spiralled out of control. He is always inspired by the calibre of projects iGEM teams produce each year. More importantly, he loves the spirit of the iGEM competition, as it is a unique opportunity to put everything into practice in an environment that promotes open science and collaborative effort. This time around, iGEM gives him the opportunity to experience and conquer the challenges of planning such a big project and the organization of a team. Best of luck to all of them this year!
Mirat Sojitra is from a small town Fort McMurray in northern Alberta and moved to Edmonton to attend the prestigious University of Alberta – to take up biochemistry. He became interested in synthetic biology after discovering it in his undergraduate studies. While exploring this area, he teamed up with students with similar interests to compete in the iGEM annual competition. During the research portion of the iGEM he learned that there are many obstacles to overcome but circumnavigating them and thinking about critical failure points is what was required for most efficient use of time. After iGEM he would like to explore and understand synthetic biology further in depth and hopefully create products that any person with minimal experience can use as part of a toolkit to create innovate. He is passionate about spending time in the Edmonton River Valley and hiking in the trails.
Patricia Yan is currently an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering at the University of Alberta. Stemming from her curiosity in science and research, she got involved in research in high school through volunteering with the Derda lab and entering the Sanofi Biogenius Competition. She enjoys the entire research process from brainstorming ideas to designing and carrying out protocols to problem solving at all stages of a project. iGEM is a project that she got involved in since it combines both engineering and science students into a well-rounded and hardworking team to tackle a large scale project. Working on the iGEM project has taught her the lesson of keeping your chin up but your head level; in essence, there is no point in being overly pessimistic or optimistic about if experiments work, but rather what is most important is to do your best throughout and learning from mistakes but having the motivation to keep on at it. During her spare time, Patricia loves to hike and bake. She hopes to be part of the development of greener energy solutions in the future.
Reshma Sirajee is a second year undergraduate student at the University of Alberta majoring in Biological Sciences. She found a love for research early in her high school years while working on her Edmonton Regional Science Fair Project at the robust UofA research facilities. During her time at the lab, Reshma enjoyed all aspects of the iGEM project from utilising creative approaches to conducting experiments to troubleshooting, and – finally - producing promising results after endless modifications. iGEM’s essence of combining leadership, collaborative problem solving and research together left a rewarding imprint on Reshma. In the future, Reshma looks forward to exploring ways to improve healthcare accessibility and drug delivery, as she is passionate about medical research and interdisciplinary education in STEM. During her spare time, Reshma enjoys playing soccer, exploring the seasonal festivals of the city and navigating through the trails of River Valley.
Nafaa Haddou is a recent undergraduate in Molecular Biology. Originally from Calgary AB, he moved up to Edmonton about 5 years ago to pursue his studies. All in all, he has found being in this city quite a change from southern Alberta, but has definitely made a home here. Joining the IGEM team was an exciting step that came about after a hearty discussion and brainstorm with his friend and colleague Dawson. The main aspect that drew Nafaa in was the potential to address real world issues and do something novel that normally be attempted easily. So far, Nafaa has found IGEM intriguing and definitely a fun mental challenge when it comes to finding solutions using an interdisciplinary approach. One thing that he has learned and continued to apply is the need to critically analyze and meticulously approach problems while thinking through the effects down the experimental line. This is one of the skills Nafaa hopes to cultivate as he continues his education in materials engineering. Outside the lab Nafaa loves to take it easy and relax around good people. A perfect evening for him is hitting the outdoors, having a BBQ, and enjoying the company of friends! Nafaa tries to enjoy these moments whenever the chance is presented between commitments to local youth development groups and entrepreneurship programs.
Matthew Fung is a fourth year student majoring in biochemistry at the University of Alberta. Hailing from the city of Edmonton, he was introduced to IGEM in his high school career and it followed closely in his undergraduate education. Following Richard Feynman’s famous quote, “What I cannot create, I do not understand”, he and a handful of his peers eventually cofounded the University of Alberta iGEM team. After graduating, he plans on pursuing his passion in biotechnology or medical school. Working in IGEM has taught him valuable project management skills as well as reaffirming his love for research. In his spare time, Matthew enjoys jamming out on his sax and taking long walks on the beach. Barefoot.