iGEM 2012


  • Giulio Alighieri
  • Eta Atolia
  • Katie Bodner
  • Jonathan Elzur
  • Keren Greenbaum
  • Divya Israni
  • Kristjan Eerik Kaseniit
  • Nathan Kipniss
  • Jenna Klein
  • Robert Learsch
  • Wilson Louie
  • Ala'a Siam
  • Felix Sun
  • Chelsea Voss
  • Linh Vuong
  • Lealia Xiong


  • Ron Weiss
  • Jonathan Babb


  • Deepak Mishra
  • Lulu Qian
  • Nevin M. Summers
  • Peter Andrew Carr

Additional Thanks To

  • Timothy Lu
  • Domitilla Del Vecchio
  • Alice M. Rushforth
  • Roger Kamm
  • Narendra Maheshri
  • Natalie Kuldell
  • Christopher Voigt
  • Feng Zhang
  • Jacquin Niles
  • Kristala L. Jones Prather
  • Rahul Sarpeshkar

Jenna Klein

is a sophomore at MIT studying Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Biomedical Engineering. Jenna is excited about participating in iGEM because she wants to learn more about synthetic biology. She is interested in synthetic biology because after many years of athletics, she has experienced injury and encountered both kids and adults who have not been able to play a sport because of their physical disabilities. She believes that people can’t control diseases that they might be born with, and that shouldn’t keep people out. In the future, she wants to be able to design something in order to improve the lives of other people. She likes how iGEM is a rare experience where she can come up with her own project idea and work on it with the team. In the past year, she has been conducting research with the Langer Lab at MIT, working on building a scaffold which can be electrically stimulated to allow nerve cells to regenerate faster and with less scar tissue. Jenna is also a goalie for MIT’s Men’s Ice Hockey Team and Varsity Field Hockey Team and a sister of Sigma Kappa sorority.

Katie Bodner

is a sophomore at MIT studying biological engineering. Her research interests span drug delivery, neurobiological systems and tissue regeneration, but she is especially excited by synthetic biology. Katie is interested in the biomedical applications of synthetic biology, specifically in ways in which we can make cancer therapeutics easier to engineer by designing circuits to detect and destroy cancer cells. iGEM interests her because of the unique opportunity to design a project with extraordinary applications such as cancer therapeutics or biochemical synthesis along with other undergraduates who are also passionate about synthetic biology and under inspirational faculty mentors. After MIT, Katie hopes to pursue her Ph.D in Biological Engineering and reach her goal of improving the lives of those affected by unfortunate diseases and carcinomas.  Katie is also the assistant sports editor of The Tech newspaper, a sister of Alpha Phi Sorority and a Resident Associate Advisor to freshmen in Maseeh Hall, an undergraduate dormitory.

Nathan Kipniss

is a member of the class of 2014 at MIT studying Biological Engineering. He decided to participate in iGEM not only to conduct interesting research, but also to develop the ways of thinking required by original work. Previous to iGEM, he studied host-pathogen interactions and systems biology research at the Broad Institute under the direction of Dr. Nir Hacohen. His research interests include systems biology and regenerative medicine. After undergraduate studies at MIT, he then hopes to pursue a career in biological engineering that will solve medical problems. While not in lab, Nathan is a cellist in the MIT Symphony Orchestra and the secretary of Simmons Hall.

Felix Sun

is studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (course 6-2) as a member of the MIT Class of 2015.  He is participating in iGEM because he thinks engineering biology can solve a wide range of problems, in areas ranging from health care to energy to food.  For him, iGEM is an opportunity to experience the excitement firsthand, and to evaluate synthetic biology against his own EECS-related interests and abilities.  This will be Felix’s first biology-related research role.  Outside of iGEM, Felix is a member of the Experimental Study Group, a unique and storied learning community at MIT.  He sings in concert choir, helps run the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament, and works for the online math enrichment site Art of Problem Solving, where he TAs classes and grades papers.

Ala’a Siam

is a sophomore at MIT double-majoring in chemical-biological engineering and biology. He also aims to minor in materials engineering and urban planning, while pursuing independent coursework in micro/nano-electrical engineering. His research interests span bioelectronics, biochemical engineering, bioprocess optimization, and manufacturing systems design. Besides iGEM, he is currently involved in a drug-delivery, protein engineering project in Langer lab and in biotechnology policy research with Professor Kenneth Oye. He decided to join iGEM because he believes that synthetic biology has the potential to significantly transform the lives of people. He also hopes that the skills he will obtain from iGEM will influence his academic career, as he aspires to earn a PhD in biochemical engineering.  Ala'a is also very enthusiastic about biotechnology and medical implants entrepreneurship. Outside of the classroom and the lab, Ala’a acts as the vice-president of MEET (Middle East Education through Technology), a member of MIT's varsity squash team, an android developer in the Media Lab's telemedicine initiative SANA, MIT's ambassador to the National Collegiate Inventors' and Innovators' Alliance (NCIIA), the lecture series chair of MIT's Biomedical Engineering Society, and as an academic reviewer in MIT’s New Drug Development Paradigms and BioManufacturing programs.

Kristjan Eerik Kaseniit

is a junior in the new Computer Science and Molecular Biology program at MIT. He comes from Estonia, where among other recognitions he received the highest award in a competition for young inventors. Eerik is interested in solving problems from computer science by using biology. He has previously worked on minimizing unwanted protein-DNA interactions and visualizing real-time datasets. Eerik was thrilled about iGEM when he first heard about it -- in essence playing with LEGOs and getting to choose your own thing to build from them. He plans to tie his undergraduate and graduate academic careers to synthetic biology. He also hopes to explore education, after having had a good experience being a laboratory assistant for the introductory EECS course at MIT. In his free time, Eerik plays the drums and accordion.

Robert Learsch

is a member of the class of 2015 at MIT and studying biological engineering. With interests in drug design and biomedical applications of the biological engineering field, Robert felt that iGEM presented a perfect opportunity to learn about the research process and confirm that he wants to pursue biological engineering. Robert hopes to integrate the elegance of well-engineered systems into the framework of biology. Since students design their own project in iGEM, from the experimental process down to the individual DNA sequence, he feels as though it serves as a perfect test for future plans. Robert, undecided on a future career, plans to establish options to break into industry, graduate work, and medical school during his undergraduate career. In addition to the beauty of biology and biological engineering, Robert is also passionate about rowing. He spends innumerable hours on the Charles River rowing for MIT’s lightweight Crew team, and serves on the governing body of MacGregor House, his dormitory.

Linh Vuong

is a senior at MIT majoring in Biology and double minoring in Management and Chemistry. Her research interests concern cancer, cardiology and immunology. She feels as though synthetic biology is an incredibly creative field where the sky is the limit. From modifying the genetic code to a quadruplet code, to re-programming bacteria as a drug delivery device, synthetic biology will give rise to the next-generation technologies, which can be applied to a broad range of applications such as materials, pharmaceuticals, medicine and agriculture. As a member of the 2012 MIT iGEM team, she feels as though she will not only be able to enrich her knowledge in the field of synthetic biology, in particular RNA computing, but also gain significant research and leadership skills that will help her greatly in her aspiration to become a physician. Previously, Linh has worked at the Centre de Recherche en Cancerologie-Leon Berard in Lyon, France working on the role of TGF-beta signaling pathway in activation and expansion of autoreactive B cells, in the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research-Sabatini Lab on cell-based microarrays, in the Institute of Molecular Cell Biology in Singapore on the Characterization of PreS1 promoter of Hepatitis B virus and at the Institute of Molecular Engineering and Biotechnology on the Synthetis of biodegradable injectable hydrogel system from Hyaluronic acid Epigallocatechin gallate. Outside of research, Linh is an MIT Admissions Blogger, a sister of Sigma Kappa sorority, an MIT Ambassador, a Medlink, an Arts Scholar, on the MIT Ballroom dance team and a writer for The Tech.

Chelsea Voss

is a sophomore at MIT majoring in course 6-7 (Computer Science and Molecular Biology). Her research interests include computational biophysics and DNA computing. She ultimately wants to do research with an emphasis on using computational methods to tackle biological problems at the molecular scale, and she is excited about the nucleic acid computing research which the MIT iGEM 2012 team's project is based on. Previously, Chelsea served as a counselor for the USA Biology Olympiad 2012, mentoring high school students to improve their biology skills and lab techniques for the international competition. She was an Intel Science Talent Search scholar in 2011 for research conducted under Dr. David Dill, Stanford computer science department, studying how to program boolean, asynchronous models of signaling pathways for analyzing aspects of C. elegans development. Chelsea also enjoys learning more about linguistics, and participated in the International Linguistics Olympiad. Outside of academics and research, she volunteers for the MIT Educational Studies Program as a teacher and administrator.

Wilson Louie

is a sophomore studying Chemical Biological Engineering at MIT. He decided to participate in iGEM because he finds the idea of manipulating the properties of life, polished by billions of years of evolution, to affect a desirable outcome intriguing and appealing. He also hopes to gain invaluable experiences and skills that will promote his future career in synthetic biology. Previous to iGEM, he has worked in the Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics at Rockefeller University, attempting to elucidate a high-resolution structure of Thermus aquaticus σ70, a protein vital to transcription initiation, and of an analogous transcription initiation factor in T4 bacteriophage called gene protein 55. Outside the lab, Wilson enjoys working with friends on building a Parallel Computing Cluster from scratch, and also enjoys programming and playing the violin and piano.

Jonathan Elzur

is a sophomore in MIT. He is currently planning to major in physics, but is interested in many fields including math, bio-engineering, chemistry, and computer science. Jon was fascinated by iGEM because it offered cutting edge research, where undergraduate students get to perform experiments that literally have never been done before! He also loved being able to program organisms to be able to do anything: glow in the dark, make bio-fuels, or fight cancer. He hopes to learn from iGEM what working in a lab is like, and gain some expertise in biology. Jonathan is a brother of AEPi, MIT's Jewish fraternity. Jon enjoys playing the piano and playing tennis with friends.

Eta Atolia

is a sophomore majoring in biology and minoring in biomedical engineering. She is interested in immunology and bacterial circuit research. At MIT, she is doing research at the Koch Institute in LMRT on a project called "Using Bacteria to Deliver Cancer Therapeutics." Her passion for synthetic biology led her to iGEM. She would like to learn even more about this area and truly create a project from the ground with a team of like-minded students. Her previous research work was looking at creating biofuels and cancer preventive agents from algae for which she was an Intel STS Finalist. Currently at MIT she is part of an initiative, Takachar, which seeks to help areas of Kenya in which charcoal is becoming hard to come by.

Keren Greenbaum

is a junior at MIT studying Biological Engineering. She is specifically interested in using biological engineering for medical purposes such as cell and tissue regeneration. After MIT she is deciding between pursuing medicine or furthering her studies in bioengineering. She is excited to be participating in iGEM because it exposes her to all aspects of research from the formation of the goal to applicable papers to working in the lab. Outside of iGEM, she enjoys dancing ballet, is the Shabbat & Holidays VP for MIT Hillel and is on the MIT Sport Taekwondo Team.

Giulio Alighieri

is a first year PhD student at MIT Chemical Engineering Department. Giulio joined the MIT iGEM 2012 to enter the amazing world of synthetic biology. In particular he is extremely excited by the idea of using genetic circuits to let cells perform tasks that can have tremendous impact in curing human diseases, moreover he strongly desires to do research in synthetic biology for his PhD thesis. Giulio earned a Joined Triple Master Degree in Nanotechnology at Turin Polytechnic (Italy), EPFL(Switzerland) and Grenoble Institute of Technology(France) where he studied molecular biology. In addition he earned  a Bachelor’s Degree in EECS at University of Naples FedericoII. His previous research experiences have been at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics(Germany), MIT (for his master thesis) and IBM Almaden Research Center(California). In his free time Giulio loves to run, bike and play soccer.

Divya Israni

is a senior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Bioengineering, with a focus on Cell and Tissue Engineering and Synthetic Biology. She is participating in the MIT iGEM team through the EBICS REU program. Divya's research interests are situated in understanding molecular mechanisms behind which cells function and the manner in which they can be manipulated through engineering to yield novel results, particularly for therapeutic purposes. After graduation, she plans to obtain her MS and/or PhD in Bioengineering. As a longer-term career objective, she aspires to pursue a position in the biotech or pharmaceutical industries to design novel bio-medical therapies. Divya's previous research experience includes metabolic engineering research using E. coli for bio-fuels synthesis at the Joint BioEnergy Institute under the direction of Dr. Jay Keasling, as well as identifying oxidative and nitrosative stress-resistant mechanisms of E. histolytica at the Stanford Department of Internal Medicine under the direction of Dr. Upinder Singh. In her free time, Divya enjoys swimming and dancing. She also actively volunteers at her local Berkeley/Oakland YWCA, mentoring young girls in science and technology, as well as planning and organizing community events such as Shadow Day.

Lealia Xiong

is a sophomore studying physics at MIT, with an interest in biological and medical research. By participating in iGEM, she hopes to be able to explore the burgeoning field of synthetic biology by participating in a student-driven, focused project, and to gain knowledge regarding the applications of synthetic biology's techniques to human disease. Her previous laboratory experience includes studying the impact of environmental effects on cancer metastasis using the eyeful line of Drosophila melanogaster as a model. In addition to iGEM, she develops stunts and performs for MIT Lion Dance, serves on the logistics committee for MIT Techfair, and teaches for the Terrascope freshman learning community.

Ron Weiss

joined the BE and EECS faculties as dual associate professor (with tenure) starting in July 2009, having moved from Princeton University where he held comparable rank in their department of electrical engineering and with a joint appointment in their department of molecular biology. His degrees are double BA in Computer Science and Economics from Brandeis University (1992), followed by SM and PhD in EECS at MIT (1994, 2001). Professor Weiss is a prominent and widely respected figure in the emerging field known as ‘synthetic biology’, with emphasis on designing molecular circuits governing cell behavior using quantitative systems modeling approaches. He is expected to help lead MIT’s efforts in both synthetic biology and systems biology, and indeed to guide their integration.

Jonathan Babb

is currently performing research to extend the life of silicon technology as well as to create the next generation of carbon-based computing platforms in the emergent fields of synthetic biology and BioCAD. Formerly, Jonathan was a lecturer at Princeton University and founder and CEO of a logic emulation startup. Dr. Babb earned a BS in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and an SM and PhD in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT. He is a member of the IEEE.

Deepak Mishra

is an NSF Graduate Fellow in MIT Biological Engineering and a student in Ron Weiss' Synthetic Biology Group. He is interested in synthetic protein phosphorylation networks and the emergence of multicellularity from single celed organisms. Deepak is a returning instructor and has been instrumental in our success thus far.

Peter Andrew Carr

focuses his research on on increasing the scale at which we can engineer organisms, up to entire genomes. Current projects in his lab include: 1) high throughput microfluidic gene and protein synthesis for rapid prototyping of engineered genetic systems; 2) re-engineering the genetic code of microbesproviding plug-and-play capabilities for non-natural amino acids, and constructing "genetic firewalls" to block gene flow to and from of these organisms; 3) error correction methods for de novo synthesized DNA; 4) Control systems and safety standards for engineered organisms. Peter received his bachelors degree in biochemistry from Harvard College and his Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biophysics from Columbia University.

Lulu Qian

is a Visiting Fellow in the Molecular System Lab in the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. She was a Senior Postdoctoral Scholar in Bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology from January 2011 to February 2012. Lulu is interested in engineering molecular systems with intelligent behaviors – at the basic level, such as recognizing molecular events from the environment, processing information, making decisions and taking actions. Her paper “Scaling up digital circuit computation with DNA strand displacement cascades” prompted the strand displacement idea for the MIT iGEM team, and she has been an invaluable resource to us.

Nevin M. Summers

is a visiting scientist at the Synthetic Biology Center at MIT and president of Novation, Inc., a consulting firm in Cambridge, MA providing due diligence, business planning, corporate development, and technology assessment services to venture capitalists, universities, and life science companies.  Previously, he held executive positions at biotechnology companies.  Trained as a molecular biologist and as an architect and urban designer, Nevin is exploring the application of synthetic biology to the diagnosis and treatment of disease, in particular the advancement of gene therapy from its early attempts with individual genes to contemporary multi-component "gene circuit therapy", capable of sensing changes in metabolic state, computing logical operations, and maintaining dynamic homeostasis.  Nevin earned a BS in Molecular Biology at Johns Hopkins, an MArch at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and an SM in Management of Technology from MIT.  He won First Prize in the Westinghouse-Intel Science Talent Search at the age of 17.

Timothy Lu

has a PhD in Electrical and Biomedical Engineering from MIT in 2008. He is currently completing his MD degree in the Harvard/MIT HST program. In addition to other awards, Dr. Lu is the Lemelson-MIT student prize winner in 2008. In his PhD work with James Collins at BU/HHMI, Tim built and modeled artificial memory systems and counters in bacteria, and developed methods for delivering synthetically engineered bacteriophage to infection sites. His research focus is the development of synthetic-biology based solutions for pressing medical and industrial problems, using concepts from electronic circuits and systems design. His current focus is inventing effective treatments for infectious diseases and cancer using synthetic biology.

Tom Knight

is a senior research scientist in the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, part of the MIT School of Engineering. Inspired in part by the work of Harold Morowitz, a Yale physicist and biologist, Knight studied biochemistry, genetics, and cellular biology, and set up a biology lab within MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science. In this lab he created the concept of the BioBrick and began creating a library of BioBricks that could be used to build biological computation structures. Today, BioBricks form the basis of the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) competition. Knight continues to focus on Synthetic Biology at the Knight Laboratory.

Linda Griffith

heads the Griffith Lab at MIT. She was an Area Head for the Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering Department. She is also the director of the MIT Biotechnology Process Engineering Center as well as a professor of Mechanical and Biological Engineering at MIT.

Alice M. Rushforth

is the Program Manager for MIT for the Center for Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS).

Roger Kamm

is the Germeshausen Professor of Mechanical and Biological Engineering and Associate Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. A primary objective of Kamm’s research group has been the application of fundamental concepts in fluid and solid mechanics to better understand essential biological and physiological phenomena. Studies over the past thirty years have addressed issues in the respiratory, ocular and cardiovascular systems. More recently, his attention has focused on two new areas, the molecular mechanisms of cellular force sensation, and the development of new scaffold materials and microfluidic technologies for vascularized engineered tissues. Kamm is a Fellow of the American Institute for Biomedical Engineering and the American Society for Mechanical Engineering. He is the current chair of the US National Committee on Biomechanics and the World Council on Biomechanics, and Director of the Global Enterprise for Micro Mechanics and Molecular Medicine.

Natalie Kuldell

did her doctoral and post-doctoral work at Harvard Medical School. She develops discovery-based curricula drawn from the current literature to engage undergraduate students in structured, reasonably authentic laboratory experiences. She has also written educational materials to improve scientific communication as it occurs across disciplinary boundaries and as it's taught in undergraduate subjects. Her research examines gene expression in eukaryotic cells, focusing most recently on synthetic biology and redesign of the yeast mitochondria. She serves as Associate Education Director for SynBERC, an NSF-funded research center for Synthetic Biology, and Councilor at Large for the Institute of Biological Engineering.

Mark Bathe

joined MIT BE as an assistant professor in January 2009. Mark received his SB (1998), MS (2001), and Ph.D. (2004) in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, with his Ph.D. thesis supervised by Professor Bruce Tidor on computational analysis of proteoglycan and glycosaminoglycan structure and mechanics. During the period 2005-2008 he undertook postdoctoral work as an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow, first with Professor Erwin Frey at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich Germany on theoretical modeling of cytoskeletal dynamics and then with Professor Marie France Carlier at CNRS in Paris France pursuing related cellular biophysics experiments. He has focused his efforts on multi-scale modeling from protein sequence to structure to spatio-temporal dynamics informed by microscopic imaging experimentation, as part of the highly collaborative Laboratory for Integrative Computational Cell Biology & Biophysics.

Christopher Voigt

joined the Department of Biological Engineering as a tenured Associate Professor in July 2011 at MIT. Among his awards are Packard Fellow, Sloan Fellow, Pew Scholar, NSF CAREER, and recognition for “Top 10 Technologies of 2009” from The Scientist. He is a founding Co-Director of MIT’s Synthetic Biology Center.

Peter Andrew Carr

focuses on increasing the scale at which we can engineer organisms, up to entire genomes. Current projects in my lab include: 1) high throughput microfluidic gene and protein synthesis for rapid prototyping of engineered genetic systems; 2) re-engineering the genetic code of microbesproviding plug-and-play capabilities for non-natural amino acids, and constructing "genetic firewalls" to block gene flow to and from of these organisms; 3) error correction methods for de novo synthesized DNA; 4) Control systems and safety standards for engineered organisms. I received my bachelors degree in biochemistry from Harvard College and my Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biophysics from Columbia University.

Lab Website

Rahul Sarpeshkar

obtained his Bachelor's degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics at MIT. After completing his PhD at Caltech, he joined Bell Labs as a member of technical staff in the department of Biological Computation within its Physics division. Since 1999, he has been on the faculty of MIT's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department where he heads a research group on Analog Circuits and Biological Systems . His invention of cytomorphic electronics, outlined in his recent book, Ultra Low Power Bioelectronics: Fundamentals, Biomedical Applications, and Bio-inspired Systems, has established an important bridge between electronics and chemistry. This work lays a foundation for a rigorous analog circuits approach to systems biology and synthetic biology. His current research on synthetic biology applies analog circuit techniques to the design, analysis, implementation, and supercomputing chip-based simulation of biochemical networks in E coli and yeast. It has applications in architecting a scalable platform technology and conceptual framework for design that is broadly applicable in all of synthetic biology. It also has specific applications in the treatment of diabetes, antibiotic resistance, and the design of microbial fuel cells. He has received several awards including the NSF Career Award, the ONR Young Investigator Award, the Packard Fellows Award and the Indus Technovator Award for his interdisciplinary bioengineering research.

Narendra Maheshri

is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has bachelor’s degrees in both Chemical Engineering and Biology from MIT, and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of California (UC) Berkeley, where he focused on engineering viral vectors for gene therapy. In his post-doctoral studies at UC San Francisco and Harvard, he became interested in systems’ biology and gene regulation. His current research interests are in understanding the dynamics of gene regulation and gene regulatory networks in single cells using a combined experimental and theoretical approach.

Feng Zhang

is an assistant professor is MIT's department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.


Domitilla Del Vecchio

is a Keck Career Development Assistant Professor at MIT's department of Mechanical Engineering.


Jacquin Niles

is a Pfizer-Laubach Career Development Assistant Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT's department of Biological Engineering.


Kristala L. Jones Prather

is an associate professor at MIT's department of Chemical Engineering.


Matthew Adendorff

is a graduate student at MIT.


Fahim Farzadfard

is a graduate student at MIT.


Shridhar Jayanthi

is a graduate student under Domitilla Del Vecchio.


Ali Kazerani

is a graduate student at MIT.


Shawn Finney-Manchester

is a graduate student under Narendra Maheshri.


Vivek Sivathanu

is a Graduate Research Assistant at MIT.