Keg Parties Out, Oligonucleotide Primers In
Back in my undergrad days, many students "majored" in social life, devoting hours to hanging out, going out, and even passing out (do keg parties ring a bell?). Of course, this was the pre-cell phone, pre-Facebook, even pre-email era. And there sure as heck were no oligonucleotide primers.
Clearly times have changed. Science fairs have evolved from dinosaur dioramas to "the advancement of synthetic biology." Proof positive: I received the following news release with a shout out to contemporary undergrads, who are clearly doing more than pulling the occasional all-nighter before an exam. Read on:
"The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) is sponsoring a competition to give undergraduate students an opportunity to get involved in the advancement of synthetic biology. As one of the sponsoring partners, Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT) is offering to support individual iGEM student teams. Last year, the 11 teams sponsored by IDT were provided with credit which they could use to obtain IDT products, including oligonucleotide primers and synthetic GENEs for use in their research project.
"Last year's iGEM competition assembled university-affiliated teams of undergraduates in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to design and build biological systems that operate in living cells. Each team received a set of biological parts, which were used in addition to new parts they designed, to build biological devices and systems. The projects ran throughout the summer, leading to a series of competitions in the fall that culminated in the World Championship Jamboree. Following on from their success at the World Championship Jamboree, four of the projects sponsored by IDT are described in detail in an issue of DECODED."
I find it all pretty impressive, particularly since my generation was more concerned with the cut of our jeans than our genes. If you know any likely competitors, they can get more information at http://www.idtdna.com/.