Department of Chemistry News

December 2, 2011

UW team wins iGEM grand prize

The Department of Chemistry congratulates Chemistry graduate student Justin Siegel and undergraduate Chemistry and Biochemistry majors Casey Ager, Juhye An, Sydney Gordon, Elaine Lai, Seth Sagulo, Liz Stanley, Sarah Wolf, and Lei Zhang for a remarkable accomplishment. These students and 14 others were members of the UW team that won the Grand Prize in the sixth annual International Genetically Engineered Machine World Championship Competition (iGEM). This is the first time a team from the United States has won the award. Members of the UW community are invited to a celebration of their accomplishment on Monday, December 12, at 4:00 pm in the atrium of the Electrical Engineering/Computer Science and Engineering Building.

This year, 160 teams from around the world competed in regional competitions. The 65 most competitive teams worldwide convened at MIT to present their synthetic biology projects. Awards were presented and the four top teams (from Imperial College London, MIT, ZJU-China, and the University of Washington) were named as finalists. An international panel of judges awarded the University of Washington the grand prize.

The University of Washington project is an example of undergraduate students engineering solutions to real-world problems. The students developed a novel protein with promise for the treatment of gluten intolerance (Celiac disease), to be taken as an oral therapeutic similar to the lactaid pill. Additionally, they produced diesel fuel from sugar by engineering a novel biological system. These projects demonstrate how synthetic biology can be used to solve many of the world’s problems, and that significant progress can be made by a group of undergraduate students with little formal training in just one summer. More information can be found at For more info about iGEM, visit