This year will be the first BIOMOlecular Design competition (BIOMOD), a new undergraduate research competition modeled after iGEM but with an emphasis on molecular design and in vitro systems. The Molecular Programming Project (MPP) will be hosting one or two teams of 3 to 7 students, working under the auspices of the SURF program. The goal is to have fun doing something incredible, and then get inspired by what other students from universities around the world are doing. (There will be prizes, but winning is irrelevant.)
I am interested in supervising projects related to DNA circuits, DNA self-assembly, and molecular robotics. I am looking for students who are excited to get deep into the theory and experimental aspects of molecular programming, who are creative independent thinkers, who like reading research articles and don't need to be told to do literature searches and to play around with new ideas, and who are willing to work really hard before and during the summer.
Since there may be more interest than positions available, we will have a series of brainstorming sessions during which we will converge on both a specific project and a team (or two projects and two teams). For the first session, undergraduate students should come prepared to present (e.g. with powerpoint slides or a whiteboard presentation plan) their own ideas for projects that the team could work on -- your goal is to get your potential teammates excited about your project and convince them that it can be done within the limit time frame available. You'll have up to 10 minutes, plus Q/A. You'll want to review the relevant literature and state of the art, since the other students won't know it. A good way to get ideas is to go to MPP faculty web pages and start reading their published papers. Then, be imaginative. Feel free to just pose goals, even if you don't know how to achieve it. Suggest challenges to your fellow students, and see if they can take the ideas one step further. Students who have done SURFs in MPP labs are especially welcome to participate.
I don't expect the first session will result in anything concrete. But hopefully it will inspire clearer and more informed thinking for the second session. By the third session, you should have refined your idea enough to write a decent SURF proposal on it. Your proposal might contain a mishmash of ideas from other students that came up during the brainstorming sessions, but will be entirely written by you. The final team and the final project that the whole team works on will be selected based on the quality of the proposals and other factors. Depending on the chosen area, various MPP faculty, postdocs, and graduate students will be available to provide advice and mentorship.