iGEM Spotlight!

Roger Pellegrini

Over 100 iGEM teams, including some of the most successful in the world, have used Benchling to accelerate their projects. In the past, teams like UT Austin have even used it to advance their projects to publication.

Take a look at how these three teams use Benchling to drive their projects.

Rice-HKUST | William and Mary | iGEM Waterloo

Rice-HKUST iGEM: Collaboration Next Door and Across the Globe

In 2015, iGEM students at Rice University and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) wanted to collaborate on an iGEM project. Their project involved tough research questions and aimed to create bacterial biosensors for phosphates, nitrates, and potassium in soil.


However, the team faced an even bigger challenge: they were on opposite ends of the globe. How were they supposed to share ideas and data?

Luckily, the Rice-HKUST team was advised by Silberg lab and found out about Benchling from Josh Atkinson, a graduate student mentor and Benchling user. The switch to Benchling immediately made their project possible.

“Communication [through Benchling] has helped our team keep on the same page and make progress whether we are one building away or half the globe away.” - Margaret Lie

“Benchling improved communication with HKUST immediately,” said Margaret Lie, a Rice team lead. The team loved Benchling’s flexibility and used the electronic lab notebook to record everything from team meeting notes to experiments. “The software has unparalleled versatility to take notes. We can connect DNA, notebook entries, and protocols,” Lie later said.

Collaboration through Benchling made it easy for the team to work together, regardless of research experience and location. “Benchling is one of the best ways to allow for seamless transition into a new product and have collaboration between both experienced and new iGEM members.”

William and Mary iGEM: Seeing the Big Picture

The College of William and Mary iGEM team loved doing iGEM. In fact, they loved doing iGEM so much that they were World Champions at the 2015 jamboree.

This year, the team plans to create a toolbox of genetic parts that synthetic biologists can use to control the sensitivity of genetic circuits and modify their transfer functions.

The team began the summer using paper lab notebooks to record experiments and, despite their brainpower and experience, ran into problems with efficiency and file sharing.

“It was difficult for us to be on the same page,” said team lead John Marken, who was also part of the 2015 world championship team. Using paper lab notebooks made it hard to communicate with team members. “If someone was out of the lab, there was no way to check data or notes until they got back.”

Luckily, Dr. Margaret Saha, who advises the team, was looking for a lab notebook in late June when one of the iGEM team members saw an email from Benchling. The rest is history.

Benchling became the team’s hub for recording and sharing progress. They were able to move over to Benchling easily because of the Dropbox and Google Drive integration.

“The integration with Dropbox and Google Drive was so useful. We were able to transition really easily from our existing ecosystem.” - John Marken

The lab notebook especially made a difference late in the summer, when team members split to work on smaller initiatives in their larger project. “Something I had seen before Benchling was that it was difficult for newer team members to see the big picture,” said Marken. “The great thing about Benchling is that everyone, regardless of experience, can see the entire team’s progress. This makes it easy for a team to see the big picture scope of the project.”

New members and iGEM veterans on William and Mary’s team have been collaborating easily ever since.

iGEM Waterloo: Molecular Biology Tools for Digging Deep

Cofounder and CEO of Acorn Cryotech, Steven ten Holder is a seasoned researcher who has seen his share of molecular biology tools. In 2015, Steven led Waterloo iGEM’s ambitious project to re-engineer the CRISPR/Cas9 system to make it more flexible and usable for researchers.


At the beginning of the summer, however, he faced a tough decision: What software should the team use for molecular biology needs?

Steven previously used other molecular biology softwares, but found that their interfaces weren’t very user friendly. Sequences took up space on his computer, and there was no way to send them to others without email.

At the beginning of the summer, Steven heard about Benchling through an iGEM teammate who loved watching startup news. He’s been an avid Benchling user ever since.

“The DNA tools were really easy to use. The visualization struck me as intuitive and beautiful.” - Steven ten Holder

Steven used the molecular biology tools every day to design assemblies, primers, and guide RNAs for his iGEM team. “The interface made me want to go back to it and work more,” he said.

File sharing and troubleshooting experiments also came naturally, and the team was able to work together no matter where they were. “Having a central repository you can refer your teammates to is awesome,” said ten Holder. “Even if someone is at home, they can see the same information and files that you would be seeing.”

What’s Next?

Teamwork and collaboration from the teams above has led to great iGEM projects and amazing science. These teams used Benchling in different ways, but have one thing in common: Benchling powered their iGEM projects by letting them work together and more efficiently.

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