Monday, November 28, 2016

Reflections on iGEM 2016

This year was my third year to go to iGEM, the genetic engineering jamboree, and while my big news was the interlab study, in fact we had done most of the work on that in advance and as a result that occupied a relatively small portion of my weekend. Much more of my time was spent fulfilling my responsibilities as a judge, as well as parenting: this year I brought my daughter Harriet along, which was both awesome and challenging.

Harriet at the iGEM jamboree opening session

I also couldn't stay until the end, which I did on both of the previous occasions: the last day of the jamboree was Halloween, and at this age that's very important for me to be at home for. So I left Boston before dawn, and was lucky that my flight got in early enough for me to catch the awards ceremony on a cell-phone broadcast from one of the teams.

Reflecting back, this year was very different for me from my previous two experiences. The first time I went, in 2014, was the first interlab study, my first experience as an iGEM judge, and my first time speaking in front of an audience of thousands. Last year, in 2015, I spent much of my time in an electrifying deep partnership of data analysis with my colleague Markus, as we sorted out bit by bit what the interlab study was telling us, along with the drama of having one of the teams that I had judged becoming a winner of the contest as a whole.

This year was... unexceptional, and I should not complain.

iGEM is a beautiful and unique event, and I'm glad to support and be a part of it.  But I'm also a little bit sad to have experienced the expected regression to the mean.

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