Missouri University of Science and Technology’s chapter of iGEM, the International Genetically Engineered Machine Foundation, has earned a bronze medal at the iGEM 2015 Giant Jamboree, held Sept. 24-28 in Boston. The team earned the medal for its work to combat white-nose syndrome, a disease that has killed millions of bats and threatens to disrupt the ecosystem.
Missouri S&T’s team competed with approximately 270 other collegiate teams from around the world to earn a bronze certification ranking. Earning the ranking involved the team documenting a new part for iGEM’s Registry of Standard Biological Parts.
At the competition, the team had to give an oral presentation of its research project to a panel of judges and exhibit a poster for review. Teams were then individually ranked based on their work.
White-nose syndrome, caused by a fungus known as “Pseudogymnoascus destructans,” disturbs bats’ winter hibernation, which leads to death in most infected species. Missouri S&T’s team attempted to defend bats by slowing the fungus growth, lessening its effects and giving the bats more time to hibernate through the entire winter, rather than waking early. If they wake early, many bats starve to death because their main food source, small flying bugs such as mosquitos, have not yet hatched.
The Missouri S&T project, titled “Defending North American Bats from the Emerging White-nose Epidemic,” proposed the use of ocimene, a compound found in oranges, as a way of combating the spread of the disease.
Ocimene has been shown to slow fungal growth, potentially permitting bats to hibernate for their full cycle and allowing their immune systems to begin combating the disease naturally.
The team’s faculty advisors are Dr. David Westenberg, associate professor of biological sciences at Missouri S&T, and Dr. Katie Shannon, associate teaching professor of biological sciences at Missouri S&T.
To learn more about the iGEM team or its project, visit mstigem.org. The following students traveled to Boston and represented Missouri S&T’s iGEM team:
Kira Buckowing, lab manager, a junior in chemical engineering from Shelbyville, Michigan
Kent Gorday, webmaster, a junior in physics from Foristell, Missouri
Jessica Hamlett, a sophomore in chemical engineering from Washington, Missouri
Levi Palmer, president, a senior in chemical engineering from Bonne Terre, Missouri
Stephanie Soendker, secretary, a junior in ceramic engineering from Independence, Missouri
Claire Wilmore, a sophomore in chemical engineering from Cedar Hill, Missouri.