Our Purpose

Through our extensive meetings with professionals and advocates who work with nitrogen fertilizer, it has become clear that there is a need for educating the public on the dangers of using excess fertilizer. Additionally, it was the hope of this year's Stony Brook iGEM team to introduce other students to the field of synthetic biology, and how to get involved in research in general.

For the majority of members on this team, iGEM was our first exposure to synthetic biology. Through extensive presentations, workshops, and activities with members at our school, we hoped to bring new students the knowledge of the field of synthetic biology. Additionally, as iGEM was the majority of this year’s team's first research experience, we hoped to inspire new students to take on the challenge of joining iGEM in their coming years during their tenure at Stony Brook University.

The following are the educational projects we have undertaken this year to help us achieve our goal of education our peers of the importance of our project, as well as how to get involved with research and succeed in STEM:

STEP Presentation

The STEP Program is a New York State initiative that began in 1986 to encourage and educate more underrepresented minority and low-income students for entry into a STEM field when they advance into college. The program boasts many students across multiple SUNY schools across the state. This summer, we had the privilege of meeting with the 2023 STEP Stony Brook students to discuss our project, our majors, and what an education in STEM looks like. We also gave them a lab tour and walked them through the current experiments we were conducting, and provided them the opportunity to ask us any questions they had. Lastly, we gave them the opportunity to present their research proposals to us, and we provided them with feedback for them to incorporate into their projects.

The following photos were taken during the STEP presentation that occurred over the summer:

C-STEP Presentation

The Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (commonly referred to as C-STEP) is a program created and funded by the State Education Department. The program is designed for students who are interested in careers in law, mathematics, science, technology, and health-related fields. Students in this program participate in a summer program on campus for academic enrichment and credit before the start of their freshman year. The Stony Brook iGEM team got the chance to meet with the 2023 cohort to discuss our project goals, our current research, what iGEM and synthetic biology cumulate, how to get involved with research on campus, and how to succeed in a STEM major for their first semester. In addition, we gave them a lab tour and provided them the opportunity to ask us questions. This presentation was of great success and all the students were very engaged, with the majority of the students who participated asking us for further information on how to join the team in the future.

The following photos were taken during the C-STEP presentation that occurred over the summer:

URECA Symposium

The URECA symposium is an annual undergraduate conference that occurs at Stony Brook University. It is an annual event organized by the URECA Program that showcases undergraduate research and is open to Stony Brook undergraduates who conduct researach on campus. This year, it occurred on August 4, 2023. Here, we presented our research to hundreds of scholars, faculty members, and researchers. We had two separate posters, one focused on the Dry Lab side of the project and the other focused on the Wet Lab side of the project. During the symposium, we discussed the importance of our research, our project goals, and the overall field of synthetic biology. Our posters will also be displayed in the Biology department building for future scholars to see.

The following two poster were presented:

Wet Lab Poster

Dry Lab Poster

Welcome Week Presentations

Welcome Week occurs the week before classes start for incoming freshman and transfer students here at Stony Brook University. This year, it occurred August 21 - August 27. During this time, we held 4 different “Intro to Research” workshops where we did the following:

  • Discussed our research goals
  • Discussed the importance of our research
  • Discussed what synthetic biology and iGEM is
  • Discussed how to get involved with research at Stony Brook
  • Discussed the Stony Brook iGEM application process

Through these presentations, we saw a deep interest from all the students who attended. Using records we were able to obtain from our other experiences at Stony Brook, we were able to email over 1500 new students to these workshop presentations, nearly ⅓ of the incoming new students in total. Of this, nearly 300 students attended the presentation, roughly ⅕ of the students who knew about them.

Because of high demand for these presentations, we had to introduce a last minute 4th workshop (only 3 were originally scheduled). Each time, the room reached maximum capacity, and we had to retrieve extra seats from the rooms next door. The presentations were considered an extreme success, based on anonymous reports from students who attended the presentations.

The following collage is made of pictures taken during the Welcome Week workshops:

The following is the presentation used during the workshop:

BME 100 Presentation

Our team leaders, Michelle and Bushra, gave a presentation about synthetic biology and iGEM at Stony Brook to students currently enrolled in BME 100: Introduction to Biomedical Engineering. This class is an introductory class that primarily consists of freshmen who are interested in pursuing a major in Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Stony Brook. Many of the students expressed interest in genetic engineering, which aligns with the “Cellular and Molecular Engineering” concentration in the BME major. This presentation aimed to introduce iGEM and synthetic biology to these students who were previously unaware of synthetic biology, or the overlap between synthetic biology and genetic engineering. Many students expressed interest in applying to the Stony Brook iGEM team during the next application cycle due to interests in genetic engineering, bioinformatics, or gaining general research experience to help them determine which career path they would like to pursue post-undergrad.

MSA “Breaking into Graduate Research for Minorities” Presentation

The Muslim Students' Association of Stony Brook University partnered with the SBU 2023 iGEM team to present a panel discussion on getting involved with academic research. The panelists were some collaborators on our project such as Melanie Cragan PhD student in the department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Maryam Azmi another PhD student from the department of Pharmacology, and a peer undergraduate, Tawshik Iqbal while our team leaders Bushra Islam and Michelle Yang hosted by presenting common questions undergraduates have on getting started. The name of the event was titled Breaking Down Barriers as its purpose was to provide resources and information for underrepresented students such as Muslim students or first generation college students. Invaluable experiential knowledge was shared by our panelists about networking, being persistent in developing skills that can make one more likely to be taken into a lab or project. Stories were shared on how to apply for graduate school and the crowd were pleased with the relatability of how a peer undergraduate got involved as well.

The following collage is made of pictures taken during the MSA researcher panel:

Collaboration with Synthetic Biology Club

The Synthetic Biology Club at Stony Brook provides a way for students to learn more about synthetic biology through engaging, hands-on crafts and events. It offers students a way to connect with science and their peers outside of the classroom or the lab. On October 5, 2023, our team hosted a collaborative event with the Synthetic Biology Club. Participants were invited to extract the DNA from a “soup” made of water, salt and blended peas. The goal of this event was to make routine lab procedures like DNA extracts more accessible, by demonstrating how they could be done with household supplies like rubbing alcohol and detergent. During this event, members of our team and the leader of the Synthetic Biology club worked together to give a short presentation about what synthetic biology is and why it's important. We also discussed the iGEM competition, and how students could apply to be a part of the next cycle's team. Afterwards, each participant attempted to extract the DNA from their pea and salt mixture. About ten students attended this event, and many stayed afterwards to ask questions. The presentation, which was made available to all participants, can be viewed using the link below.

The following collage is made of pictures taken during our collaboration with the Stony Brook Synthetic Biology Club:

Nitrogen Fertilizer Awareness Flyers

Towards the end of the project, we wanted to distribute flyers around campus to advertise the importance of correctly-using nitrogen fertilizers. These flyers illustrate the main points of what we hoped to share with students around campus. These flyers were handed out to students walking about campus, hung on bulletin boards across campus buildings, shared on social media, and posted in residential dorms on campus.

This is a photo of the flyer, along with images of us distributing it:

Educational Podcast

For many members of our team, this cycle of the iGEM competition served as their introduction to research. Through first hand expreince with the literature invovled with out project, we noticed how difficult it can be to make sense of new developements in the feild of synthetic biology. To help, members of our team started an educational podcast, which breaks down recent news involving synthetic bio in a way that it engaging and easy to understand. We did so in the hopes of introducing iGEM to a wider audience, and to get more people interested in synthetic biology. Topics we covered include the use of CRISPR-Cas9 to help restore the Great Barrier Reef, how lab-grown meat is produced, and recent scientific breakthroughs that owe their success to E. coli.

Below are the transcripts of our first three episodes:

Entering Research Workshop

The iGEM team participated in the Stony Brook Biology Departments semesterly Entering Research Workshop to give students an opportunity to ask us questions about our project and what iGEM is. Students were greatly interested to hear from our experiences and were enthusiastic about applying to the 2024 iGEM team, with over 10 students signing up to receive the application once it opens!

CommUniversity Day

CommUniversity Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of students and faculty members across Stony Brook, as well as highlight the way Stony Brook is excelling. Communiversity date was originally scheduled for the end of September, but it got moved to October 14th due to weather issues. The Stony Brook iGEM team will be participating at CommUniversity Day and presenting our posters from the URECA symposium. In addition to highlighting the importance of our project, we will be emphasizing the importance of undergraduate research to potential donors to further support Stony Brook students! In 2022, over 3500 people attended CommUniversity Day, and this is expected to increase! The Stony Brook iGEM team looks forward to participating at this event and continuing to spread awareness of the importance of correctly using Nitrogen Fertilizers.

10 Year Anniversary of iGEM at Stony Brook

This year we celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Stony Brook University’s participation in iGEM! In the coming weeks following the jamboree, we will be hosting a celebration with iGEM alumni from Stony Brook. Here, we plan to host a panel so students can ask these alumni questions about their current work, and how iGEM set them up for success. While we were not able to complete it prior to the jamboree, it is our goal to complete it before the end of the semester!

Data from iGEM Presentations

The following are the data we recieved from 158 students who completed exit surveys after events:

Sign Ups for the 2024 iGEM Team

During the presentations and research workshops, we provided students with a form so they could sign up to receive the application for the 2024 iGEM team. We plan to release applications following the Jamboree (around mid-November), and will close the application on December 31. Currently we have 236 students who have indicated their interest in applying for next year's team! This is a dramatic increase based upon last year's team. While we do not have specific statistics on how many applicants applied for this year's iGEM team due to confidentiality reasons, it is the understanding of this year’s team that this is an unprecedented number for the Stony Brook iGEM team! Additionally, these numbers mostly just include first-year students at Stony Brook, and we can expect even more applications when taking into account the returning students who apply to be on next year's iGEM team!


The Stony Brook iGEM team implemented various educational activities, presentations, and workshops throughout the entirety of the iGEM season. We believe that these enhanced the value of our project, and layed out the foundation for current students in a multitude of ways.