Start A Team/Team Anatomy


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So you want to start a team

The three most important components of each iGEM team are its students, faculty mentors, and a space in which to work. You’ll need all three to successfully start a team. You will also need funding to support the team’s operating expenses


iGEM is primarily an undergraduate competition. While Ph.D students may participate on a team (usually in a mentoring role), the majority of the team should be undergraduate students. We use an inclusive definition of “undergraduate” - basically, if you are not a Ph.D student, then we classify you as an undergraduate. High school students and master’s students fall in this category.

Most iGEM teams have between 6-12 members. IGEM teams are most successful when composed of a multidisciplinary mix of students. Try to recruit biologists, engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, etc. for your team. Put up posters, solicit departments and clubs with emails, hold information sessions, and generally get the word out about your team. Do interviews with interested students and then accept.

Faculty advisors

Each team is required to have at least two advisors. At least one of the advisors should be a faculty member at the school hosting the team. The advisors provide the team with educational and technical guidance, to help the team acquire the resources it needs to be successful - particularly lab space and funding - and to act as the official contact person with the iGEM organization.

Lab Space

You can’t build biological machines without a lab to work in. Most teams are able to find space with the help of their advisors, often working out of one of their labs. In a few cases, teams have been able to find unused space and furnish it with (often donated) lab equipment. Please contact if you are trying to start your own research space.

Not all iGEM teams will need wetlab space, however. Teams competing in the new Tools Track, which is being introduced in 2008 and is focused on developing any kind of tool - mechanic or computational, physical or virtual - that enables the engineering of biology with standard biological parts, will not necessarily need a wetlab. The goal of the Tools Track is to enable teams without wetlab resources, such as teams of computer scientists or mechanical engineers, to still participate in the competition.