Team:Macquarie Australia/Conference



Conference Details Link

Background: Macquarie University has participated in iGEM for the past four years (2010-2013). The number of Australian teams participating has NOT increased during this time. In fact, it decreased from 3 teams in 2010 to only 1 in 2012. This year there are 2 teams from Australia, University of Sydney and ourselves.

Why? We believe that the lack of participation in iGEM from teams in the Oceania region may be attributed to:
• Australia's seasons are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere, so too is our academic calendar. This makes conforming to the time-frame of iGEM difficult as the ‘iGEM summer’ coincides with our academic winter term.
• High travel costs: It costs approximately $2,500 for each student to participate at the regional Jamboree.
• Synthetic Biology in Australia is still in its infancy. There is little to no financial and structural support for synbio activities in Australia. It is not represented by any scientific organisation and no funding is specifically linked to synthetic biology.


Goals: We want to make Synthetic Biology visible to the Australian Academic community. We want to showcase the iGEM initiative and educate other Australian Universities how they can also participate in the iGEM competition. We want to see the number of Australian teams who participate in iGEM increase. Eventually, we want to hold an Oceania iGEM Jamboree event!


Organise a conference for the academic research community to bring together Australia’s most prominent researchers in the field of synthetic biology.


Invited Speakers:We identified key leading researchers in the Oceania scientific community who themselves identify as being associated with the field of synthetic biology or the closely related field of bio-engineering. We worked with our mentors (Dr Louise Brown, Dr Robert Willows, Professor Nicki Packer and Mr Yagiz Aksoy) to invite the scientists we have identified. Invitations were sent out in June 2013 and were very pleased to receive a 100% positive response from all our invited speakers. Our invited speakers can be seen on our webpage, click here

Date of Conference: A conference date was selected for after the conclusion of our second university semester – Friday 15th November 2013. This date is after the teaching semester and prior to major grant funding deadlines. This date ensured academics and students could all participate.

Funding: It was important to us that we could provide a conference that would be low cost for all attendees. Again, we worked closely with the conference committee to secure funding for our initiative. We have obtained funding from our own university including the Macquarie University DVC of research, the Macquarie University Australian School of Medical Research and the Macquarie University Biofocus Research Centre. We have also obtained funding from Biorad and GE healthcare. Our successful fundraising has enabled us to make this a FREE event for 120 researchers.

Program: It is very important to us that we not only introduce the new and exciting field of synthetic biology to the Australian research community but we also educate our audience about what iGEM is and how they can participate. In particular, we want to showcase our own 2013 iGEM research at this meeting and also research from the University of Sydney iGEM team, in particular, the role iGEM has in educating the community through outreach activities. We also wanted to ensure that the important issues of Ethics and Intellectual Property were appropriately discussed at our meeting. We decided on the following Program Sessions:

Program Sessions
  1. Synthetic Biology Explained
  2. Ethics and Intellectual Property
  3. Applications of Bio-engineering and Synthetic Biology
  4. Updates from MQ and USyd iGEM teams

September Update: We are just under 2 months away from our meeting. We have been surprisingly overwhelmed by the interest generated by our initiative. We currently have close to 100 registrations. This includes participants from a total of 15 Australian Universities, 2 International Universities and also government and industry bodies, including the Australian Defence Science Institute. We have sufficient funding to support the travel for all our invited speakers. We are also planning to continue this initiative in 2014 and see this event expand and grow into a longer workshop event run over 2-3 days. We hope that our event will result in more Australian teams participating in iGEM in 2014. Stay posted!

Conference Poster