Hi there! We’re Dalhousie iGEM.

iGEM or the International Genetically Engineered Machine is a global initiative that encourages students to use synthetic biology to solve real world problems. Our interdisciplinary team is comprised of undergraduate students and graduate mentors from a variety of faculties including Computer Science, Medical Science, and Management.


After a summer of hard work, we are ready to present our findings!

Each year, iGEM holds a global competition called the Giant Jamboree. We will be representing Dalhousie as the only team from Atlantic Canada competing in the competition. The event is four days long and will give us an opportunity to present our work to researchers, judges, students, and industry leaders from around the world.


For our project we wanted to solve a global issue using local resources. As the amount of available fossil fuels decreases, there is a huge need to develop renewable energies. We are creating a system to produce biofuel, a renewable fuel, using waste from the forestry industry. A prominent component of forestry waste is cellulose, a hard-to-digest carbohydrate found in plants. Cellulose can be converted into the biofuel, ethanol, making it an ideal starting material for biofuel production. Currently, there are inefficient and environmentally-expensive ways to convert cellulose into ethanol, thus our first challenge was to create a better conversion system.

The diverse collection of bacteria present in the gut (also called the gut microbiome) is in part influenced by our diet, as we rely heavily on these microbes to help digest our food. This relationship between gut microorganisms and diet can be observed in many other animals. Due to this relationship, we reasoned that the porcupine, which feeds on tree bark, leaves, and flowers, would have bacteria within its gut microbiome to help digest the cellulose found in its woody diet. Sure enough, the porcupine microbiome contains cellulose-digesting bacteria! We are in the process of taking the genes encoding the proteins involved in cellulose digestion from the porcupine gut bacterium, and putting them to work in our own system. We’ve been working throughout the whole summer to make this happen, and are now getting ready to present our research at the international iGEM conference in Boston. We’ll be the only Atlantic Canadian team presenting our research to an audience of researchers, industry leaders, and students from around the world.


Our goal is to send 9 of our teammates to represent Dalhousie at the iGEM Giant Jamboree held in Boston from November 9th-13th 2017. iGEM teams from around the world come together each year at the Giant Jamboree to present their findings, develop leadership and networking skills, and learn about advancements in synthetic biology.

Our goal of $10,000 will be used for conference registration, transportation, and accommodations for our team members.

At the event, we will have the opportunity to meet with industry experts that can help us get our idea from the lab and into action. By helping us attend the conference, you are not only sending a group of students on an opportunity of a life time, but you will have a part in reducing Nova Scotia’s carbon footprint.

The Team

Our team consists primarily of Undergraduate students from programs all over Dalhousie! We have students in Neuroscience, Microbiology and Immunology, Computer Science, Management and more. Dalhousie iGEM is arranged into five main teams: Wet Lab, Dry Lab, Web Design, Fundraising, and Human Practices. Most students are involved in at least 2 of the main teams, this really fosters a strong community as everyone is contributing to everyone else's project!
Dalhousie iGEM also has 5 graduate student mentors who help with the more advanced sections of the project and provide priceless advice to the undergraduate students at the project progresses.

Mackenzie Thornbury


Mackenzie is in her 5th (and final!) year of her undergrad in Microbiology and Immunology. She joined iGEM last year to learn about what synthetic biology is, and how she could get involved in this emerging field. The iGEM 2016 Jamboree inspired Mackenzie to come back for 2017, and encouraged her to help cement Dalhousie iGEM’s place in Dal’s programming. She is grateful to be apart of this amazing program which grants undergraduate students priceless training and offers incredible opportunities. Mackenzie finishes her degree in December and plans to take a short breather before entering Graduate Studies in September 2018.

Jacob Sicheri

Wet Lab Team Lead

Jacob is a third-year Microbiology and Immunology student. Jacob joined iGEM to experience and embrace synthetic biology as he has always been a fan of tinkering with problems and projects. He thinks of synthetic biology a lot like playing with Lego as a kid; many parts making a whole working system. Jacob plans to do his honours next year with a focus on influenza and hopes to go to grad school following his undergraduate studies

Molly Marcott

Fundraising Team Lead

Molly is a business student through and through. In fact, she has never taken a biology class in her life. So, how did she end up on a synthetic biology team? Well - she LOVES sustainability. When she heard that this year's team was working on a project that could have a positive impact on the environment, she jumped on board to help out with the fundraising and marketing aspects of the project. Molly's dream is to work in the field of Health Promotion, and in her spare time she likes to bake, dance, and spend time with the love of her life: a Syrian hamster named Glue.

Angela Tsai

Human Practices Team Lead

Angela is going into her third year in the Medical Sciences Program. She joined the Dalhousie iGEM team to learn more about synthetic biology and explore ways to use microorganisms for medical and industrial applications. Angela is currently working in a tissue engineering lab, and she wishes to go to medical school or complete a master degree in biomedical engineering. 

Nicholas Boudreau

Dry Lab Team Lead

Nicholas is a second-year Microbiology and Immunology student. He joined iGEM to participate in novel research with a practical application. Nicholas is fascinated by synthetic biology as he like solving challenges that improve people's lives. He plans to go to grad school after his undergraduate and explore new uses for virotherapy.

Serena Drouillard

Web Design Team Lead

Serena is a second-year Computer Science student with an interest in web development and web security. She joined iGEM to learn how to code websites, while at the same time learning some bioinformatics and microbiology techniques. She has some background in biochemistry, and is excited to learn what bioinformatics is all about. She’s also interested in dabbling in all of the different facets of the iGEM competition. 

Matt Curry

InterLab Team Lead

Matt is going into his second year of Microbiology and Immunology at Dalhousie University. After hearing about iGEM Matt became fascinated with synthetic biology. As a student he enjoys broadening his horizons through bioinformatics and simulations. However, the Dalhousie iGEM team has let him take his interests further and apply aspects of the project in the lab. Matt is excited to be a part of the iGEM team this year!

Abdullah Al-Khaledi

Communications Team Lead

Hey, my name is Abdullah Al-Khaledi and I am a 3rd-year student double-majoring in Biochemistry and creative writing with a minor in chemistry. I enjoy food, spending the majority of my young adulthood playing video games and taking the 225s for a ride on the incline. I joined the Dal IGEM team because of how much I knew I'd learn. I'm surrounded by amazing mentors and peers that share my passions both in and outside of the lab. I'm hoping that my time in IGEM will better prepare me for my future in honors, masters, medicine and even my long-term plan of becoming a genetic engineer. 

Francis Routledge

General Member

Francis is a second-year neuroscience student. She decided to join iGEM at Dalhousie because of her interests in synthetic biology and her previous experience working on two iGEM projects in high school. iGEM has allowed Francis to experience the problem solving and lab setting that microbiology and genetic engineering bring to the table- both of which differ in many ways from her main area of study. Francis plans to continue with her neuroscience degree and a certificate in neurotechnology innovation and hopes to study abroad in the near future!

Mariam Elaghil

General Member

Mariam is a 4th year Microbiology and Immunology honours student. She joined the iGEM team because of her fascination with synthetic biology. She was excited to meet other science fanatics like herself and to design and execute experiments. She aspires to have a combined career in medicine and research. Mariam is starting her honours project in September by looking at an oncolytic virus. 

Bess Pearson

General Member

Bess is a second year Neuroscience and Chemistry student. As Bess’s double major demonstrates, she has a love for incorporating different fields of science, which is exactly what IGEM does with its core in synthetic biology. Bess plans to finish her bachelor’s degree within the next two years, and further continue her passion for research with a masters

Caroline Guinard

General Member

Caroline is entering her fourth year in Microbiology and Immunology at Dalhousie University. This is her first year participating in iGEM and is excited by all the possibilities the project can bring. She got involved with iGEM due to her interests in research and genetic engineering. She plans on going to Medical school in the future and hopefully integrate research in her medical career.

Emma Finlayson-Trick

Human Practices Graduate Mentor

Emma has been part of the Dalhousie iGEM team for three years and has enjoyed watching the team develop into what it is today. She first got involved with iGEM to learn more about synthetic biology and to gain lab experience. Emma is pursuing her master’s degree in microbiology and immunology studying the NOD2 protein in the context of Crohn’s disease

Landon Getz

Dry Lab Graduate Mentor

Landon Getz is an M.Sc. Candidate here at Dalhousie and is a Graduate Student mentor for iGEM Dalhousie 2017. Landon attended the Giant Jamboree in 2016 and has experience with the iGEM competition and what is expected at the Jamboree. Landon was apart of the bioinformatics and web design team member last year, and can guide Dalhousie iGEM this year through these processes. He got involved with iGEM in 2016 to learn new skills and work with other like-minded individuals on a group project. This year, Landon is hoping to pass off the skill he learned to the new students of iGEM 2017. For the future, he is hoping to continue in academia or use his synthetic biology background to aid in ocean biotechnology innovation.

Patrick Slaine

Wet Lab Graduate Mentor

Patrick Slaine is a PhD candidate and mentor for iGEM. Patrick volunteers with iGEM to learn new techniques that aren’t taught in the regular Microbiology and Immunology program and help teach the next generation of undergraduate scientists. He enjoys almost every aspect of scientific learning and writing, which is what iGEM built its core from. He one day wishes to join the business side of science which is aided by iGEM as it fosters biotech collaboration which allows students and mentors to learn and develop important business skills. Patrick also volunteer to teach others the techniques he has acquired over the years, aiding the knowledge transfer across cohorts. 

Jacob Nearing

Web Design Graduate Mentor

Jacob Nearing is a recent Dalhousie graduate obtaining a BSc. Honors in Microbiology and Immunology and a minor in Computer Science. He is going to start his Master’s in Microbiology and Immunology this fall with a focus on the human virome. He is a first-time mentor for the Dalhousie iGEM team and does his best to help with the theory and methods used in the wet lab setting. He also uses his background in computer science to help the dry lab team with their quest to find genes. He got involved with iGEM because he has always found synthetic biology interesting and often finds himself thinking about new crazy projects that the team could one day try and tackle

Jamie Cook

Wet Lab Graduate Mentor

Jamie is in the second-year of his Master’s degree in Microbiology and Immunology. Jamie joined iGEM last year because he has a passion for Science, and enjoys mentoring undergraduate students while also helping them further develop lab skills. He really enjoys synthetic biology because he believes it can be a greener alternative compared to current industrial manufacturing. Jamie plans on either furthering his education by starting a PhD next year or going to work in the biotechnology industry to gain work experience.


We did it!

October 19, 2017

Thank you to everyone, named and unnamed, that supported our campaign!

With just over 24 hours left, we have finally reached our goal of $10,000. This funding will go directly toward conference registration, travel, and accommodations for our hard working team members.

We are very excited for the opportunity, and hope we make you all proud!

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you all.

-Dalhousie iGEM

We're almost there!

September 26, 2017

This morning we woke up to amazing news: we have raised over 75% of our goal!

We owe a HUGE thank you to everyone who has contributed thus far. To our family and friends: thank you so much for your support, we are humbled by the amount of engagement we have had with our campaign and are so happy to have you all standing behind us throughout this adventure.

There are two groups in particular that we would like to mention: the Dalhousie Faculty of Science and the Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine. The support we have received from these two groups has been incredible and we want to thank everyone involved for their continued support.

With just 3 weeks left in our campaign we are headed into crunch time and we couldn't be more excited.

Thanks again!

-Dalhousie iGEM


The President's Office

Lois Murray

I'm sure you'll make us proud in Boston! Have a great Jamboree, iGEM'ers!!!

Faculty of Medicne Faculty of Medicine

Faculty of Science Faculty of Science

Janice Thompson

Mike Vaura