My name is Arnau Montagud Aquino, I participated as a student in iGEM 2006 edition (http://www.igem.upv.es/igem06/index.php?title=Main_Page). By the end of February of 2006, a professor that mentored me in my firsts months as a Molecular Biology lab intern bumped into me (yes, literally) in the cafeteria and ask me to go pay him a visit at his office later that day. He told me about a student competition hosted by MIT that involved physics, mathematicians, engineers and biology students. He told me that he came to know the competition through a former collaborator in a protein design project and that this man begged him for help in order to gather biological students. “Those physics are not aware of the mine field they are stepping on…”, he said.
In fact, from the very beginning iGEM got my attention, as, since I started my Biological grade, I looked for courses that merged Mathematics and Biology and, sadden about the scarcity of those, I found iGEM to be a unique opportunity to meet people with other views towards science and, more importantly, to work together on an idea in order to bring it to the real world. From that moment on, I have been involved in all Valencia iGEM participations. It’s been seven years of struggles, building dreams, seeing most of them shattered by the harsh reality and seeing some of them reach the designed ending. I could not choose one of them as my “favorite”. I remember with profound happiness my first participation, but I’m afraid that this is not because the project was more interesting or people build up a tighter team. It was just the first time that I met with such a diverse group of people, the first time that my mind blew up with science, with problems with solutions and with problems with no solutions…
In iGEM 2006 I was mainly doing molecular biology lab work. I was in charge with all the processes that involved the molecular cloning of E. coli, from design to quality check. In following iGEM, 2007, I also took care of clonings and, from that moment on, I step back and let others do the job as I helped people as an advisor. If there’s anything that I would like to improve from the way we do work at Valencia iGEM team is the presence of experienced advisors and graduate students.
My best experience in iGEM is, always, Jamboree’s Sunday morning. It does not matter if one wins ten prizes or none. The satisfaction of the job done, together with the happiness of meeting people that has undergone similar things to you and the (mild) hangover from the previous night celebration mix very well together.
iGEM has taught me one very important lesson: to truly work together within a team. I had worked previously with other students, but this was the first time that our project in real life was going to be evaluated inter pares. Nowadays, I see iGEM as a social experience as well as a scientific and educational one. I have sincerely recommended to all students I have met to participate in iGEM and I will continue doing so.
If I may give an advice: learn, take iGEM seriously, this is not a parade, but, then, do not take it as it was your one and only chance in your life to make something remarkable.