iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine competition) is an academic contest in synthetic biology, bringing together aspiring scientists from all over the world.
iGEM was initiated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, and is held annually since 2003. Today, the iGEM Foundation, an independent non-profit organization, is responsible for the competition. Thousands of young students gather for the finale, called Giant Jamboree, in Boston to share and celebrate their work.
The competition aims to establish a library of standardized synthetic biological parts (conforming to the BioBrick standard) that can be used by others to create complex biological systems.
The project each participating team chooses is mostly designed and organized independently and endeavors to offer a solution to a real and relevant problem. Collaboration and team management as well as presentation of the project's topic, progress, and results to others is another part of the work an iGEM team faces. Especially, meetings with other teams often lead to an establishment of regional and international contact networks as well as valuable exchanges of ideas.
Since its foundation in 2003, iGEM's recognition and popularity has been growing steadily. In 2017, over 300 teams participated worldwide and the number of enthusiastic young scientists entering the competition is still rising.