Team:Utah State/Team


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iGEM 2008 at USU

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Utah State University is proud to be involved in the 2008 IGEM competition for its first year. The 2008 USU iGEM team consists of graduate, undergraduate, and high school students with varying levels of experience in genetic and biological engineering under the supervision of professors with backgrounds in Biological Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Biology, and Microbiology. Through team meetings and working closely together in the lab, team members came to know each other and the project material. Though many project topics were seriously discussed, the team chose to study a method of monitoring Polyhydroxybutyrate production in microorganisms by inserting a reporter in the PHB cassette. This project was selected because of its potential to make the PHB production process more efficient and cost effective by creating a simple system for determining the optimum time for PHB extraction.

This project was carried out at Utah State University in beautiful Logan, Utah. The Utah State University iGEM team project is focused on creating an efficient system for production and monitoring PHA production in microorganisms. One goal of our research is to develop and optimize a method, using fluorescent proteins, for the detection of maximum product yield of polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB, a bioplastic) in recombinant E. coli and in Cupriavidus necator. In order to develop an optimal PHB detection system, we focused on the identification of the most efficient reporter genes, and the best promoter sequences that would allow our reporter to indicate when PHB production was maximized.

The 2008 USU Team


  • Dean Scott Hinton: Dean of the College of Engineering, USU
  • Dr. Charles Miller: Department of Biological and Irrigation Engineering, USU
  • Dr. Ronald C. Sims: Department of Biological and Irrigation Engineering, USU


  • Jun-Ling Huo: PhD student, Department of Biological and Irrigation Engineering
  • Steven Merrigan: MS student, Department of Biological and Irrigation Engineering, USU
  • Joseph Camire: MS student, Department of Biological and Irrigation Engineering, USU


  • Trent Mortensen: "iGem spelled b-i-e, iGem"
  • Libbie Linton: Department of Biological and Irrigation Engineering, USU
  • Kirsten Sims: Department of Biological and Irrigation Engineering, USU
  • Dan Nelson: Department of Biological and Irrigation Engineering, USU
  • Rachel Porter: Department of Biological and Irrigation Engineering, USU


  • Garrett Hinton: Sky View High School
  • Matthew Sims: Logan High School

Team Member Contributions

Jun-Ling Huo is a PhD student who served as an advisor for the iGEM team. He helped to answer student questions, and guide team work and discussion.

Stephen Merrigan is currently working on a MS in Biological Engineering at Utah State studying biodiesel production from algae, and has a background in Microbiology. Stephen's primary role was as an advisor for the project. During the first few months of the project Stephen did background research on project topics. He also helped with lab work when necessary, including DNA purification. Stephen also advised on the wiki construction.

Joseph Camire advised on targeting the amplification of the full phaCAB cassette and phaC gene,optimizing the PCR process and testing of primer sets with and without prefix and suffix regions. His work also involved sequence determination and analysis of the phaCAB cassette contained in the source plasmid. He also guided work on the phaC gene, which included targeting at amplification and preparing the gene for site-directed mutagenesis for removal of a critical restriction enzyme site prior to ligation of a new phaCAB cassette for biobrick construction.

Trent Mortensen is a finishing senior in Biological Engineering. His main research direction is biomedical in nature, using herbal antibiotics as possible alternatives for disease treatment. As part of the USU iGEM team, he played an active role in the planning of the project, group coordination, advising professor consultation, laboratory work, ordering of materials, lab maintenance, Wiki preparation, documentation, and presentation preparations throughout the course of the project.

Libbie Linton is a Biological Engineering student. Her research is focused on the the analysis and verification of gas chromatography and nuclear magnetic resonance methods for the quantification of intracellular polyhydroxyalkanoates in bacterial and environmental samples. For the iGEM team, Libbie helped in project determination and planning, as well as literature review and topic research. She also carried out work in the laboratory like restriction enzyme digestions, gel electrophoresis, DNA isolation, and bacterial transformations. She was also responsible for coordinating efforts and organizing the wiki.

Daniel Nelson is pursuing a degree in Biological Engineering and his current personal research project is “Omega-3 Fatty Acid Production and Extraction in Schizochytrium limacinum SR21.” He has enjoyed participating in group discussions as project ideas and direction have been determined. In the lab, he has worked with the team to isolate, purify, and analyze the key DNA promoters for the PHB synthesis gene. He hopes that through study of these promoter regions, the team will find a way to increase PHB production and create a general gene expression system to monitor cellular product accumulation. Outside of the lab, he has helped to design the logo for the USU team.

Kirsten Sims

Rachel Porter is a sophomore at Utah State University majoring in Biological Engineering/pre-med. For the iGEM project, she helped to carry out some of the lab work. In the lab, she helped isolate and purify DNA, prepare and run electrophoresis gels, and culture cells.

Garrett Hinton is a junior at Sky View High School in Smithfield, Utah. He was heavily involved in the project discussion meetings, as well as the background literature research. Garrett spent many hours working on this project and carried out a substantial portion of the laboratory work.

Matthew Sims is a junior at Logan High School in Logan, Utah. He helped during the summer months to carry out many experiments and obtain and analyze data.

Where we're from

Utah State University is located in Logan, Utah. Logan is about 85 miles north of Salt Lake City, Utah. The city of Logan is located in the heart of Cache Valley near the on the western slopes of the Bear River Mountains, the northernmost branch of the Wasatch Range. The city has a population of approximately 47,000. Logan was established in 1859 and has a rich heritage and wonderful culture. The city of Logan has been stated to be among the safest cities in America.

Utah State University was founded in 1888 and has evolved from a small, agricultural college to a university that is nationally and internationally recognized for its intellectual and technological leadership. As Utah's land-grant and space-grant institution, the university is led by President Stan L. Albrecht and has 850 faculty who provide education for more than 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students, including 10,000 in its continuing education sites located throughout the state of Utah. USU has more than 200 buildings, 63 of which are devoted to academics. USU also has 3 branch campuses and Extension offices in all of Utah's 29 counties (

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