Most of all, iGEM has been a great character defining experience. To us, it is the story of an idea that started to form in the mind of a few team members, years ago, and who finally came to fruition. This is their story…
There are two sides to this story, one in Biology School, the other in Bioengineering School both at UCLouvain.
On the biology side, there were Antoine and François, two Second year baccalaureate biology students. One day, as they were working on an assignment on synthetic biology for their biochemistry class, they stumble upon iGEM’s website. It was love at first sight and from that day on, they could never really shake off the idea to be part of such a competition. UCLouvain had never participated but they were convinced that by the time they would reach their Master degree, they would surely have.
On the other hand, Kilian found out about iGEM in September 2015 while watching a documentary called “Fabriquer le vivant”, literally “Making Life” (video available on Youtube). Excited, he had to talk about iGEM to his classmates! Professor P. Morsomme, giving a class on Biochemical Analysis as this great discussion took place, intrigued by the uncharacteristic fervor of the students, had to jump in. This was not the first time, he had heard about such competition and he referred Kilian to Antoine. Together, they managed to gather around them enough people to start calling themselves: “The first UCLouvain iGEM Team”.
Hopeful but not vain, they knew it was going to take a lot more convincing to get UCLouvain Professors and the University on board. Members of the team set out on a quest and went door to door looking for the required academical support. Finally, Professor P. Soumillion and Pr. B. Hallet answered the call. They decided to take the lead and give a home to the team in the Biochimestry, Biophysics and Genetics of Microorganism Unit at the Life Science Institute.
Many brainstorming sessions took place in order to discuss objectives and to decide how we should make our first attempt at the iGEM competition. With great input from ULB Professor L. Van Melderen (Université Libre de Bruxelles), the academical supervisor of the ULB iGEM Team, a calendar was set: the team would take part in the iGEM 2016 Giant Jamboree in Boston.
Once solid, the project received Vincent Blondel, the rector of UCL, approbation and the team could finally focus on the project elaboration and start gathering funds. By that time spring was well and its way. They had no time to loose…
The rest, my friends, is History.