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BSC Students Partner with Students from Four Virginia Universities in Prestigious International Genetic Engineering Competition

  • Created
    Thursday, February 03 2011
  • Created by
    Jim Nelson/Media Relations - (304) 327-4103

(Bluefield)—Bluefield State College enjoyed the distinction of being the only West Virginia college or university to participate in the 2010 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Jamboree competition at MIT, and preparations are underway to develop a BSC student contingent to compete as part of another regional team at the 2011 iGEM Jamboree.

Dr. Martha Eborall, BSC Professor of Biology, has worked with representatives from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech on a series of grants over the past 5 years.  “Our first collaborative grant with VBI was a cyberinfrastructure grant in which Professor Lionel Craddock and I received training that led to the development of a Cyberinfrastructure course at BSC”. This grant was followed by a training grant which provided a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) for me in synthetic biology at VBI working with Dr. Jean Peccoud.” she explained.  “Last, year, we participated in a NSF grant submitted by Dr. Peccoud which provided funding to create a multi-institutional genetic engineering competition team.”

Through that grant, BSC students partnered last spring with students from Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia State University. Dr. Eborall was one of the faculty advisors for this regional team. “The Virginia United  team’s project “Quorum Sensing Amplifiers and a Co-Design Approach for Information Processing” focused on the use of co-design, a common engineering practice, to design a genetically engineered biosensor system for detection of multiple heavy metals in water,” Eborall stated. “Although the students did not meet the entire goal of their ambitious project, they gained extremely valuable experience and were awarded a bronze medal at the competition, according to the BSC professor.

More than 1900 students from 130 teams took part in the 2010 international competition.  Dr. Eborall served as a judge at the competition. “As we prepare for the 2011 iGEM event, we are hoping to add students with applied science, engineering, and computer-science backgrounds to the team,” Eborall continued.  “The accomplishments of these student teams can lead to important advances in medicine, energy, and the environment.”