Pitt Students Win Gold Medal in Genetically Engineered Machine Competition

A blue microphone

As part of a virtual research competition, a team of Pitt undergraduates explored whether a comparable equivalent to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies could allow scientists to wirelessly manipulate cell behavior and control gene expression. 

The group pitched this idea for the 2020 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, an annual synthetic biology research event in which teams from around the world design and carry out projects to solve an open research or societal problem. More than 250 teams participated in the organization’s first Virtual Giant Jamboree, and the Pitt undergraduate group received a gold medal for their project titled “Bluetooth Bacteria.”

This year’s group was also one of three teams that were nominated for “Best Foundational Advance Project.” This is the first time a Pitt iGEM team has been nominated for an award at the iGEM competition.

The team included Sabrina Catalano, a senior molecular biology student in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences; Dara Czernikowski, a senior biological sciences student; Lia Franco, a junior chemical engineering student; Victor So, a senior microbiology and English literature student; and Chenming (Angel) Zheng, a junior molecular biology student.