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Kolbe Group Hosts iGEM Students

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iGEM stands for international genetically engineered machines and is a non-profit organization that organizes a worldwide competition for students in the field of synthetic biology. Participating teams create projects using synthetic biology that aim to have a positive impact on the world. The projects are then presented at the 2022 Grand Jamboree later this year in Paris.

This year’s team at the Universität Hamburg aims to create a new and faster system for detection of antibiotic resistant genes in bacteria using phages and split ribozymes. Several iGEM students are currently working at CSSB in Michael Kolbe’s laboratory. “I think the idea behind iGEM is great for promoting highly motivated students during their first independent research studies. I am impressed and excited to provide iGEM Hamburg’s team with laboratory space at CSSB and to support them in their exciting research project,” notes Michael Kolbe.

Jonas Westphal, a bachelor student in Daniel Wilson group at the Universität Hamburg, took the time to answer some questions about iGEM and his research.

What is your role at iGEM Hamburg?
I am one of the three team leaders currently on the iGEM team.  My responsibilities include organizing weekly meetings, otherwise I'm mainly concerned with lab work and instructing new members.

Why did you choose your research field?
I have always been fascinated by how life works and by looking at the tiniest details. For this reason, I initially chose to study Biology for my bachelor degree. After two years, I changed my major to Molecular Life Sciences (to this day the best decision of my life).

What do you find most exciting about your work?
What's cool about iGEM is that I am fascinated with nearly everything we do, but you could say I'm most excited about working in the lab to apply my knowledge. For example, I will start lab work at 6:30 tomorrow and surprisingly I'm rather excited about it.

What is your proudest moment/accomplishment?
As a bachelor student I haven't had many opportunities in this regard, however I recently managed to implement Golden Gate Assembly for our planned ribozyme construct. I had no prior knowledge in this field, so this was entirely self-taught, which felt really rewarding.

Advice for the next generation?
We're not actually following this advice ourselves, but previous iGEM members told us to not put things (especially the wiki) on hold for too long.

Who are your role models or mentors?
I rarely have those, but I currently find Professor D. N. Wilson's work really inspiring.

When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
I like to play and listen to classical piano music. I'm also involved in everything about coffee, maybe more than I should be for a healthy sleep schedule.

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