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iGEM research competition

School of Statistics Junior Taylor Aldridge wins at iGEM Competition

In late-October to early-November of 2014, School of Statistics junior Taylor Aldridge competed in an iGEM competition in Boston, MA with the University of Minnesota iGEM team. iGEM stands for International Genetically Engineered Machines and it is a competition in Synthetic Biology that occurs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology every year. iGEM is the premiere undergraduate competition in Synthetic Biology, using the competition to foster scientific research in the field by undergraduates.

For the 2014 iGEM competition, the University of Minnesota team worked on a mercury bioremediation project that combined biology, engineering, and human practices. The end goal was to develop a device to remove harmful methyl mercury in Minnesota waters. Methyl mercury enters the water as a result of activities like mining. Taylor Aldridge worked most closely with the human practices part of the project, gauging public perspective and trying to educate people about science.

Aldridge worked with a team to develop a five question survey presented at the iGEM research team booth at the Minnesota State Fair. The questions were varied and covered topics like the amount of concern over methyl mercury and how comfortable respondents were with the device. Aldridge and the team used T tests, correlation tests, and regression, analyzing the information using R. Through the analysis, they were able to quantify public perspective.

The competition was a four day event that took place in Boston and a convention center near MIT. At the competition, the University of Minnesota iGEM team, including Aldridge, presented their project. During her free time, Aldridge explored Boston and talked with faculty at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute for Technology, calling it “a great learning experience!”

Aldridge and the University of Minnesota iGEM team impressed the judges with their presentation and innovative device. They were awarded first place in the Environment track of the competition. They also qualified for Gold, the highest level of achievement.