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The UCSF iGEM Program was created in 2007 from a partnership between Professor Wendell Lim from the University of California, San Francisco and George Cachianes, a passionate teacher at Lincoln High School in San Francisco's Unified School District.


What is UCSF iGEM?

Our program combines high school outreach with the International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition (iGEM). Promising young students from the San Francisco Unified School District's Abraham Lincoln High School spend the summer working together as a team, along with researchers at the University of California-San Francisco. We've also expanded our program in recent years to include local undergraduates and exchange students from Peking University with our ALHS students. They design and implement a project in synthetic biology with which they compete at the iGEM Jamboree in Boston in the Fall.

What is the mission of this partnership?

The Mission of UCSF iGEM is to provide key elements of enrichment for our students' educational experience in science.  In the process, students:


  • Are presented with an exciting, multi-faceted challenge
  • Gain insight into collaboration:  teamwork as a crucial component of research
  • Gain insight into communication:  how to work effectively with people of varying educational levels, ages and backgrounds
  • Develop advanced research skills
  • Learn how to start from scratch and follow a project to its conclusion



What is the iGEM competition?


  • Students from universities across the world form research teams for the summer
  • Teams design and create biotech-focused genetically engineered systems in their own labs
  • Teams gather at the international Jamboree to present and share their research to compete for prizes awarded by a panel of expert judges
  • Over 220 teams representing 21 countries competed in the 2014 Jamboree



Wait, so the UCSF iGEM team is made up of high school students, but this is a college competition. How can you match up against the best undergraduate programs? 


Here's our philosophy: high school students are just as ready for intellectual challenges as are undergraduates. They simply lack two things: experience and the personal motivation (this tends to develop after you've escaped the highly structured schedules of high school).


We've designed our program to address these differences and have now shown that high-schools students certainly can compete with the best of the best undergrads. Plus, there's an added benefit: we're giving these high-school students a challenging head start to help guide their future aspirations.