Our team of ten students consists of molecular biologists, (bio)chemists, geneticists, biomedical scientists, bioengineers, robotics engineers and economists. All from different walks of life, the cumulative pool of skills and experience is not only diverse, but also very exciting!
Brandon Ford: Our Molecular Biologist
Brandon has just finished his 3rd year in Molecular Biology at Sheffield, which has given him experience in the theory and practice of molecular and synthetic biology techniques as well as experience in bioinformatics. He is involved in the wet lab team which includes planning, preparing and performing practical experiments.
He got involved with iGEM after two PhD students came in at the end of one of his lectures and said something about a “Synthetic Biology Summer Project/Competition”. He was immediately interested and so proceeded with the grueling application and interview process, and was very pleasantly surprised when he found out that he had been accepted onto the team.
When asked about his “inner funk”, his reply was “I would say that my skin is very good at keeping my inner funk inside where it belongs, but when that fails, I use a plaster or bandage.”
Although he is very happy with the iGEM project we have chosen to do, he is a little disappointed that his ideas of Luciferase-expressing Cannabis plants (Glow in the Dank™) and a synthetic virus to wipe out the Common Wasp (Waspox™) will not be pursued.
Wesley Ho: Our Economist
Wesley is a second year Economics student from Hong Kong. He says, “We Economics people are a noisy bunch. We are involved in different kinds of things, from factors affecting extramarital affairs to stuff that people typically associate with Economics, like inflation. Running regression for modelling and doing a few pages of maths equations to prove certain theories are also things that we do.”
Wesley remembers the night he received an email titled, “Exciting summer project!!!!”, to which he thought “yeah, right”. At the time, he had accepted an offer to do an Economics summer research project and had received so many emails from careers agencies thereafter that at first, he put the phone down and ignored the email.
He later progressed onto the interview and believes he was quite lucky to be chosen for the project. “The training and interdisciplinary experience of iGEM is invaluable,” he says, “At first, I freaked out about the fact that I had to choose between iGEM and the other research internship that I had accepted. After listening to a meaningful speech on why I should choose iGEM from someone I shall not name, I took the offer and ever since, I’ve been working on the most exciting project and with the most interesting people!”
There were two muffins in the oven. One goes: “God! it’s hot in here.” The other goes, “Holy cow, a talking muffin!”
Yep…that’s Wesley for you.
“I like people, places and things.” – Wesley Ho.
Hannah Macfarlane: Our Biomedical Scientist
Hannah is a second year Biomedical Science student from outside Bristol, UK. She enjoys problem solving and learning new skills. She found out about iGEM from a circulating email and thought it sounded like a great opportunity. “Some of the funniest moments in iGEM so far have been some of the brain storming ideas; a cancer-detecting lycra suit, and self-lubricating machinery!”
Also, if she could be any cell in the body, she would be a neutrophil! (Aw, Hannah!) This is because they are “small but mighty” and protect every inch of our body from nasty bugs!
Wai Ching Lin: Our Bioengineer
Wai Ching chose to study Bioengineering at University because it allows her to use maths and biology skills in equal measure. It being a relatively new field in engineering, she says, “I think it’s exciting to work in a high-tech area to develop new products that could potentially save many lives.”
When asked about how she got involved with iGEM, she said, “A friend of mine mentioned it to me and forwarded me the email. I thought it would be a fun project to do, so I applied and, here I am!”
In her free time, she likes to watch anime and draw. She also likes to eat and try out new food from different cuisines. Being a Bioengineer, Wai Ching often finds herself bridging the gap between the wet and the dry lab, and she enjoys the interdisciplinary aspect of this project.
Oana Pelea: Our Geneticist and Molecular Cell Biologist
Oana is a 4th year Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology student interested in synthetic biology, bioinformatics and cancer research. She decided to study science after being involved in many charitable projects aiming to raise funds for the treatment of patients affected by life-threatening illnesses. This experience convinced her that the best possible way she could help such patients would be by understanding their diseases at a molecular level and trying to find solutions to prevent or treat such diseases.
Oana got involved with iGEM after listening to a talk that two of our advisers delivered when recruiting for iGEM. “Well, this is a really long story…”, she says, “After one of the longest and most tiring sessions that I ever had in my entire student life, Dimitrios and Kyle gave a speech about iGEM. Although I was really tired, I decided to listen to them as I love synthetic biology… and I think that listening to their talk was one of the best decisions I could have made – as I am sure iGEM will change my life.”
Besides this, filling in the application form
and going for the interview were really fun procrastination times while writing her third year dissertation!
Oana has a slightly artistic personality. She loves abstract painting, cycling and taking long walks. In general she can be slightly quiet and sometimes comes across as being a serious person, however, in her good days, she says “I may come up with unexpectedly crazy ideas such as designing a fancy latex suit for skin cancer detection as an iGEM project”. (Refer to Hannah’s comment on this idea).
James Gratton: Our Robotics Engineer
James Gratton is a 20-year-old, 2nd year Robotics Engineering student extraordinaire. As a Robotics and Systems Engineer, he loves to just about model everything and make it as complicated as possible by using lots of very scary maths. But other than that, he occasionally gets to make some really awesome robots.
He’s from the beautifully green rolling hills of Derbyshire and despises people who pronounce grass for longer than 3 seconds as his true midland heritage dictates. He loves to solve problems and to make them perfect, even if it takes him a lot longer than it should! “This extends to my arty side,” he says, “which loves to always be creative in whatever I do.”
He heard of IGEM through several lecture presentations and a recommendation from an engineering society club he was involved with. He has always wanted to take part in a big worldwide competition and use his skills to help to contribute to something that could help people in the future. Although he doesn’t know much about biology, he plans to apply his analytical skills to science-the-hell-out-of-everything and hopefully, learn something useful along the way. “Plus, it looked like fun work and it would be a very long boring summer otherwise,” he adds.
He believes he is the inner funk. “I provide a great sarcasm service to anyone who wishes (which you can thank me for later). I am a big fan of cheesy puns, dank memes on the internet ( the edgier the better) and cute cat gifs which always make my day,” he says. He is also part of a University society of assassins where they go around shooting people with nerf guns around the campus and stabbing each other with foam daggers; a firm believer that all arguments can be solved with a nerf-gun battle.
Magdalena Dabrowska: Our Biochemist and Geneticist
Magdalena is a final year Biochemistry and Genetics Master’s student. She has always been fascinated with biology and chemistry but didn’t realize how much she would enjoy research until she started working on her first lab project. “Working in a lab allows me to use logic and analytical skills in designing experiments and interpreting results,” she says, “This helps to answer some of the many scientific questions in research and I extremely enjoy having a direct impact on expanding the knowledge about this complex world we live in.”
Magda had heard of iGEM two years before she finally gathered the courage to apply. The first time she heard of iGEM, she started to read many descriptions of past iGEM projects and remembers being fascinated by how innovative, well-designed and simple they were, thinking why anyone else hadn’t thought of this before. Since then, she really wanted to be a part of the next Sheffield iGEM team and now here she is!
When asked about her inner funk, Magda said, “I hate sweet clementines and will only eat them if they are sour, I put jam on top of my cheese sandwich, I will apologize to a lamp post if I bump into it, I’m extremely scared of horror films but at the same time, I love watching them and when I order a pizza, I don’t care about any of the ingredients as long as it has a stuffed crust.”
Jamie Grimshaw: Our Molecular Biologist
Jamie has just finished his third year in molecular biology and is heading into his fourth year. He finds biology to be fascinating, awe-inspiring, terrifying and amazingly useful all at once and he wants to dedicate himself through programs such as iGEM to further his understanding and figure out ways in which he can tame aspects of nature for our own purposes.
“After around 3 hours of average to poor undergraduate presentations, a pair of PhD students came into the lecture hall with an ‘exciting opportunity'”, he recalls, “Despite the obvious trap, I stayed and listened and was drawn in and duped into undergoing the depressing application process that I was sure I would be unsuccessful in.” Fortunately, during the interviews, he believes the advisers experienced a severe lapse in judgement and allowed him to tag along on this strange journey known as iGEM.
In the man’s own words – “I am innately boring, but not to the point where that is particularly interesting.”
Jake Edmans: Our Chemist
Jake will be starting his third year in Chemistry and was invited by email to interview for a
position on the Sheffield iGEM team. He had never heard of iGEM before, but liked the idea about getting involved in an exciting and emerging discipline to learn new things from people of different backgrounds.
He is also working on a documentary about the late German director, Christoph Schlingensief. So stay tuned.
Saylee Jangam: Our Bioengineer
Saylee is a second year Bioengineering student from India. As a kid, she traveled a lot and grew up in Hong Kong. She chose to study Bioengineering at the University of Sheffield because of the interdisciplinary nature of the course – “One morning, I’ll be in an anatomy lab and the next, an electronics or control systems lecture,” she says,”The variety in my degree keeps things moving and exciting!”
iGEM was something she has wanted to be involved in since the beginning of her University career. She got in touch with the advisers informally before a team was put together, when iGEM Sheffield was still a rough possibility some months ago, and made sure to apply once the opportunity came through. As a Bioengineer, she mainly bridges the gap between the dry and the wet lab and focuses on the policy and practises side of the project, as well as manages the online
presence of the team.
She loves dancing and traveling, trying new food and meeting new people!
As you can probably tell, our team is an interesting bunch! We look forward to developing our project this summer and meeting other teams online as well as in person in Paris next Friday (that’s right, we will be attending the European iGEM Team Meet-Up!)
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