People who made our team and our project possible

References and Inspiration

Our circuit is largely based off the following papers and groups:

the work with toehold switches, cell-free systems, and paper-based sensors detailed in "Paper-Based Synthetic Gene Networks" by Pardee et al., which we consistently refer to as "the Collins paper";

the 2015 Pitt iGEM team and their work with cell-free, paper-based systems and the Collins materials;

the thallium DNAzyme described by Huang, Vazin, and Liu in "Desulfurization Activated Phosphorothioate DNAzyme for the Detection of Thallium";

the lead DNAzyme developed by Lan, Furuya, and Lu in "A highly selective lead sensor based on a classic lead DNAzyme";

the amplification systems developed by Wang, Barahona, and Buck in "Engineering modular and tunable genetic amplifiers for scaling transcriptional signals in cascaded gene networks"; and

toehold switch design described by the 2015 Exeter iGEM team.


Huge thank-you's go to the following groups and people for making this year's iGEM team a success:

the Collins Lab at MIT for sending us their pT7 toehold structures;

the Voigt Lab at MIT for the pT3 GFP construct;

Dave Gau from the Roy Lab, who provided us with the various odds and ends we needed to grow cells;

Steve from the Shroff Lab, who provided us with reagents and materials for making buffers, a freezer, and friendliness every day;

Neill Turner from the McGowan Institute for giving us access to a plate reader;

Nick Ankenbruck from the Deiters Lab, who helped us run polyacrylamide gels, and

the Deiters Lab for welcoming us into their space.

Advisors and Mentors

Our advisors and mentors met with us every week to discuss ideas for the circuit, experimental results, experimental design, and presentations. Special thanks go to:

Dr. Jason Lohmueller, who started iGEM at Pitt and provided valuable insights for experimental designs and interpretation of results;

Dr. Sanjeev Shroff, who worked out all the logistics to make iGEM possible;

Adam Butchy, for all his help with modeling;

Dr. Natasa Miskov-Romanov, who provided us with a lab space;

Dr. Alex Deiters, who always knew we could do better and taught us to be critical; and, last but not least,

Dr. Lisa Antoszewski. Without her dedication, patience, and organization as our laboratory mentor, we would never have passed the theoretical stages of our project.


All members of the team worked on the project both inside and outside of the lab. Our focuses were as follows:

Claire: Wiki, cell-free reactions

Maya: modeling, cloning, fundraising

Aife: designing DNA sequences, human practices

Praneeth: DNAzyme gels

Maddie: cloning


Thank you to the following people and groups for making our project possible:

Breton Hornblower and Cory Tuckey from NEB, who made PURExpress a viable option for our experiments;

University of Pittsburgh's Office of the Provost, Swanson School of Engineering, Department of Bioengineering, Department of Biological Sciences, and Department of Chemistry;

Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT); and

All of our backers on

Other Individuals

Thank you to Stephanie Lachell for editing our introductory video; and to Peter Dimitrion and Taylor Canady for their contributions in the brainstorming process.


Our wiki contains images from the following sources:

Home Page



Chaoyang Wang, for the Mid-Atlantic Meet-Up;

Claire Chu, for Washington, D.C.;


"Open notepad" by rdevries

Project Overview

Project Timeline

The team met for the first time at the beginning of April. For the next month-and-a-half, we brainstormed ideas for our project. By our first day in lab at the end of May, we knew we wanted to design a thallium sensor. Our circuit design solidified over the next week or so as we started to familiarize ourselves with the lab space. By the next week, we were learning lab techniques and applying them to our project.

As we became more comfortable in the lab, we started thinking about human practices. We reached out to summer programs and science museums in the area to see if we could share our iGEM experience with their kids. From July through August, we were busy teaching others about synthetic biology as we continued to develop our idea in the lab.

Work on the Wiki started early in the summer, mainly developing the overall design and adding as much information as we had. Modeling started near the end of the summer as our project became finalized and we had better ideas for what to model.

See our lab notebook for more details on what we worked on each week. It's been a great summer, and we can't wait to meet everyone at the Jamboree!