Vignettes of the iGEM Experience: Student Partnerships Toward Authentic Learning

  • Robert Mayall Dept. of Chemistry University of Calgary
  • Mayi Arcellana-Panlilio Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Calgary
Keywords: team science, authentic learning, thematic analysis


With the ever-increasing push towards authentic learning within post-secondary institutions, many approaches are being explored. One such method with a particular focus on real-world applications has been the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition program developed at the University of Calgary. This program sees teams of undergraduate students tasked to develop a solution or product for an application of their choice in partnership with a faculty mentor. This paper presents the findings from an interactive workshop with post-secondary educators and a subsequent thematic analysis on vignettes collected from alumni of the Calgary iGEM program, focusing on how authentic learning was pivotal in their experiences. It was found that teamwork and science were recurring themes in the vignettes, while post-grad life and personal growth supported the presence of authentic learning.


Author Biographies

Robert Mayall, Dept. of Chemistry University of Calgary

Robert is a scientist/entrepreneur with a background in Chemistry, Biology and Nanoscience. By day he works as a Vanier Scholar at the University of Calgary developing sensors for pathogens, but after the sun goes down Robert is a Co-Founder of FREDsense technologies, a biotechnology startup developing products for water monitoring.

Mayi Arcellana-Panlilio, Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Calgary

Senior Instructor in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Mayi teaches in the Bachelor of Health Sciences program. She is also lead faculty mentor for the University of Calgary iGEM team that participates at the premier collegiate competition in synthetic biology featuring >200 collegiate teams from around the world.


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Conference Theme: Students as Collaborators