Robert participated in the iGEM Compepetition for the first time as a member of the 2016 Evry iGEM Team, and has over the years supported iGEM Teams from Asia, Europe and North America. As a member of both iGEM Teams and After iGEM he has served as an advior and mentor for ISER Pune (2017) and iGEM Warwick (2018), and CCA San Diego (2018) and Bioriidl Somaiya (2019), respectively, while also serving as a Chair for the After iGEM Education Committee. 

With the iGEM Warwick 2018 team (second left)

We had a chat with Robert last month, to hear about his iGEM journey, what's next for him and his advice for iGEMers. Let's have look!

Your iGEM Project, and what inspired you

I started with the iGEM Évry 2016 team. We decided to do a project about the bioproduction of PLA (i.e. bioplastics) using state-of-the-art synbio tools because most of us were part of a MSc program with a great deal of focus in metabolic engineering. It was on this same year that the French government included some significant banning on single-use plastics, so everything made sense to everyone. At the time, I was very excited about building bioprocesses and I wanted to use my skills on the project. At the personal level, participating in iGEM was to me a great chance to get to express and materialize my ideas and make a project our own from the bottom up.

Favourite aspect of iGEM

I like the fact that although it is a competition, it is made in a way that there is no rivalry between teams as each team works on their own story. There is a lot of incentive for collaboration and it is all open source. I think it is a good thing.

iGEM's role in choosing your current position and what's next

With the participating teams in the IISER Pune during the All India iGEM MeetUp 2017
in Pune, India. (back in the middle)

Yes, certainly. The iGEM gives you a taste of what it is to do research about things that are not well known, and gives the chance to take an entrepreneurial perspective about it. As a PhD student developing a potential biotech product, it is quite uncertain sometimes how to do things and move forward. But there is always a way, and finding the way is all about research and development. This feeling of navigating through uncertainty is something most iGEMers may be familiar with. And I can tell from this experience that if you don´t like iGEM you cannot like research, let aloine doing a PhD. So here I am doing a PhD.

I like to keep the focus on developing useful biotechnological products, and whether it is in academia or in a private venture I will keep doing it. 

3 words. 3 key take-aways from your iGEM experience?

Adventure, Challenge, Community

A  Message of aspiring iGEMers

I’d tell them to use iGEM as a platform to test their ideas, to do experiments. But also as a learning space to learn how to work in a team with different interests and to see how you can help build a common goal. In this light, I would tell them that while planning for their iGEM project, I strongly encourage them to consider bringing their ideas further, beyond the scope of the iGEM competition.

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