UGA-Georgia Human Practices

The University of Georgia iGEM team has engaged in numerous activities to promote scientific collaboration, help increase awareness synthetic biology in the local community and throughout the world, and engage with administrators to ensure proper biosafety practice.


Since early 2015, the University of Georgia iGEM team has been working on establishing a sound, effective, and universal protocol and logistics system to circulate mCherry samples on a largescale circuit for fluorescence measurements. We decided to contact iGEM headquarters officially early June 2015 with a formal proposal to motion for a new Archaeal InterLab study modeled after the current E. coli InterLab administered by iGEM. We suggested that we send out our own collection of mCherry protein extracts from our methanococcus experiments. iGEM Headquarters and the Measurement Division advised us to pursue a sort of ‘pilot’ InterLab, which we began calling the Archaeal Collaboration Study. After a few weeks of carefully refining our proposal, gaining proper clearance from the biosafety office, developing the shipment system, creating registration and data input forms, and creating a universal protocol for measuring mCherry protein florescence, we were ready to contact an assortment of iGEM research teams across the United States gauging general interest in our collaboration study. We were truly inspired by the level of interest we received from the feedback and began to slowly build up the network of participating teams we have today. Slowly but surely, we built up a network of 9 participating teams: University of Georgia, MIT, Stony Brook, University of California at San Francisco, Carnegie Mellon, William and Mary, GenSpace, Columbia, and Vanderbilt. We can’t thank our participating teams enough for their support and efforts toward our study.

Our collaboration study not only functions as a system of support that adds validity to our findings with the work we’ve done in the lab—it not only functions as an educational teaching tool that has brought awareness of the capabilities of methanococcus to anyone that read our proposal and knowledge of the methods of reading mCherry fluorescence—but we believe it helps the scientific community as a whole. By creating the logistics and protocol schedule, we’ve created a system that can be used by anyone to distribute protein samples of any kind; provided minor alterations to the protocol be made if a group were working with another type of RFP or GFP. The information we’ve gained from this collaboration effort has been priceless and we’d encourage any team to try to implement our setup into their own study.

As for the future of the collaboration effort, we would like to send out recombinant cells for teams to observe the archaeal cells with a fluorescence microscope. Also, we would once again like to try to create an official iGEM Archaeal InterLab study to run side-by-side with the E. coli InterLab study. We strongly believe our ‘pilot’ collaboration study to be a huge success and would like to take it to the next step.


Increasing Awareness of Synthetic Biology within our University Community

The iGEM team placed flyers around the University of Georgia explaining what Synthetic Biology was and inviting members the University to come in our lab. Some flyers were also handed out to students and the field of Synthetic Biology was introduced to them. The students aided in ranging from collecting cell pellets to taking fluorescent measurements.

Microbial Health Lesson at Oglethorpe Elementary

The first outreach project was conducted at a local elementary school and aimed to increase awareness of Science in general. Several members of the iGEM team collaborated with the organization FIMRC (Foundation for International Medical Relief for children). This organization teaches health lessons at a local elementary school and for one week, iGEM was allowed to teach the lesson. The iGEM team, taught students that bacteria play an important role in our everyday life. Specifically, we taught the second graders about how bacteria help with digestion and they can be used to clean the air. We concluded the lesson by showing the student how to properly wash their hands using a dye that turns bacteria florescent under the Ultra-Violet Light.

Left: students using blacklight to see fluorescent bacteria on their hands. Right: iGEMer, Hirel Patel, showing students proper hand-washing techniques

Presenting our Project at the Bioenergy Systems Research Institute (BSRI) Annual Retreat

The University of Georgia's Bioenergy Systems Research Institute (BSRI) hosts an annual retreat where they allow students to present relevant research in the realm of "harnessing biology for a new economy," as well as invite speakers from around the state to discuss bioenergy in terms of Georgia's economy. This was our teams second year participating in their conference.

Shipment of Geraniol Synthase with iGEM Nagahama

The University of Nagahama iGEM’s team requested parts from our team. After we received their request after the team we determined the best way to send the desired part. It was interesting to learn to communicate with this team due a difference in language. We also provided them with much needed guidance on who to ensure proper use of parts, how to amplify the gene and clone it into E. coli Additional information on the processes used to determine how to ship the objects can be found on the safety section.


The University of Georgia iGEM Team was contacted by the Nagahama iGEM team in request as the geraniol synthase gene. Our team was happy to oblige their request and send them this part, however our advisor warned us of the many regulations in sending genetically modified organism. Early on, the team decided to learn more about the rules and regulation regarding the shipment of genetic information. The team first discovered that some shipments must be marked by category if they are to be shipped from the United States. The level for sending a recombinant organism would be classified as a “Level A” shipment, which was highly regulated and controlled. With access to a limited budget and due to time constraints the team decided that the best way to send the part was by sending just the Geraniol Synthase Gene. The researchers also contacted iGEM Headquarter and learned that they were able to simply mail the dry DNA samples.

The iGEM team interest was piqued and we set out to learn more about the rules and regulations concerning the shipment of genetically modified organisms. Our first source was the Office of Biosafety at the University of Georgia. Therefore, researchers must become a certified shipper in order to mail genetically recombinant organisms. Patricia Cooke, a representative from the Office of Biosafety gave us some answers to the questions we were looking for. First she told us that it would be much more feasible to send the DNA versus sending the parts within a chassis. She also stated that these issues are very important because of a need for the safety of not only scientists but the entire community because some of these organisms can be extremely dangerous and could be used malevolently if obtained by the “wrong person.”

We felt that the issues brought up by her were quite interesting and that a greater dialogue should be had about the rules and regulations regarding sending a recombinant organism. Should you have to become certified to mail them or is that unnecessary? What classification system should you use to label the gene? The University of Georgia iGEM team hopes to learn more about these processes and that work with another organization to change public policy in this arena.