Origins of iGEM


iGEM was established in 2003 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a module. Since starting as a competition with 5 teams in 2004, it has now grown to 377 teams, with more than 30 countries.

Watch the iGEM President Interview >

Randy Rettberg, Co-founder and President of iGEM, discusses the iGEM competition. Hear about his vision, as a hardcore engineer, for the future for students participating in iGEM, as well as the future of synthetic biology.

iGEM President Interview






+ What is iGEM?

iGEM stands for the international Genetically Engineered Machine. It is an annual competition that combines biology, engineering, and entrepreneurship to tackle real-world problems.

+ Who can participate and how do I apply?

University students have to apply to their respective University team to participate.
To apply visit:

+ What year do I need to be in?

Good candidates are usually in their 2nd year, with stronger ones in their 3rd or 4th year.

However, this year we have introduced the "Readers" where we take students that have what we call the "iGEM spirit" but their experience is lagging a bit behind.

+ What Department do I need to be in?

Any Department. Examples of past Departments include: Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Biomedical, Chemistry, Bioengineering, Control Systems, Mechanical, Electronic and Electronical Engineering, Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Computer Science.

+ What is the Board and can I apply?

The Board can be made of anyone. Usually students from the research team take up these roles. No prior experience is needed. We are looking for the enthusiasm and determination to take up the responsibility. You do not have to be able to do it alone or perfectly, you just need to be the person who worries about getting it done. All the info you need is thoroughly archived on our Google Drive, and past Board members are always readily available to help.

For more information or to apply visit:

+ When and where do iGEM teams work at?



+ Is this a paid internship?

As iGEM teams are spread over the world, different teams approach this diffrently. At Sheffield iGEM, this is a volunteering intership unless extra funds become available, which they have in the past.

+ Where and when does the iGEM competition take place at (aka where is the Jamboree?)?

The conference, where the iGEM competition takes place at, is called the Giant Jamboree. The Jamboree takes place in Boston, USA. It normally happens around the end of October. In 2019, it will be on 31st Oct - 4th Nov.

+ Who goes to the Jamboree in Boston?

Depending on funds available each year, the Board decides how many people can travel. This can be from the entire team to only the three chosen speakers or even just one speaker.

+ Where can I see past iGEM projects?

For past Sheffield projects:
For other teams' projects Google the city name and year alongside the keyword iGEM.

+ What kind of Prizes are there?