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University of Nevada, Reno’s synthetic biology team wants to dance to victory



The University’s International Genetically Engineered Machine Team will host the first iGem Wolf Pack Concert in the Joe Crowley Student Union at 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 17. The team will use the proceeds to compete in the iGem Competition at the Americas Regional Jamboree in Indiana.

Performance fundraiser to help send iGEM to national competitions

The University of Nevada, Reno International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Team, with the support from the University’s Center for Student Cultural Diversity, will host the first ever iGEM Wolf Pack Concert at 7 p.m. on Sept. 17 in the Joe Crowley Student Union Fourth Floor Ballroom. Students will compete for the iGem Best Performance trophy and other prizes.

The proceeds from the concert will help send the iGEM Team to represent the state in the synthetic biology competitions at the Americas Regional Jamboree, Oct. 8 through 10 in Indianapolis, Ind. and potentially at the World Championship iGEM Jamboree, Nov. 5 through 7 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Synthetic biology, also known as genetic engineering, is the development of new biological systems and applications that do not occur in nature.

Several University and community groups, including Ambition Beauty Leadership and Equality (A.B.L.E.) Women, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Lambda Phi Xi Multicultural society, Philippine United Students Organization, students from Truckee Meadows Community College, and others plan to participate in the concert. The groups will step, stroll, dance, sing or perform in a band in hopes of claiming one of three awards. Food, face painting and henna (decorative, temporary body art) will also be available.

“It’s really encouraging to know that clubs on campus and in the community are willing to support our efforts to compete and represent the state of Nevada in an international synthetic biology competition,” said Elaine Bersaba, president of iGEM Team Nevada 2011. “It definitely motivates us to work harder and beyond our own expectations.”

The iGem Competition is the largest synthetic biology competition in the world for undergraduate students. Student teams are given a kit of biological parts at the beginning of the summer, which they use along with new parts of their own design to build biological systems and operate them in living cells.

“This is a great opportunity for students to be creative in science,”  David Shintani, associate professor of biochemistry in the University’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources and team faculty co-advisor, said.

The iGem Nevada 2011 Team is one of 168 teams of biochemistry, molecular biology and engineering undergraduates competing to design and build simple biological systems that may lead to important advances in medicine, energy and the environment. In 2009, the Nevada iGEM team received a bronze medal for their project to create an environmentally friendly pesticide to target mosquitoes that spread malaria. In 2010, the team won a silver medal for creating a biosensor in plants to produce green fluorescence that let farmers know when the crop plants are cold stressed.

“This competition allows students to design new ways to help society,” Christie Howard, associate professor of biochemistry and team faculty co-advisor, said. “It resembles the annual concrete canoe competition for engineering students, but our students get to pick their own project.”

Pre-concert tickets will be sold outside the Joe Crowley Student Union and the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center from Sept. 13 through 15 for $5. Tickets will also be available at the door for $8. Children under 10 years of age will be admitted for $2.

For more information about the iGEM Wolf Pack Concert, please contact Elaine Bersaba at 775-848-1212 or [email protected]. For more information about iGEM, go to http://2011.igem.org/Main_Page. For more information about the Center for Student Cultural Diversity, go to http://www.unr.edu/cultural-diversity.

Nevada’s land-grant university founded in 1874, the University of Nevada, Reno has an enrollment of more than 17,000 students. The University is home to the state’s medical school and one of the country’s largest study-abroad programs, and offers outreach and education programs in all Nevada counties. For more information, visit www.unr.edu. The University of Nevada, Reno is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

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