Fit coli - iGEM competition

    Period: Jun - Oct 2014    

Maria joined the iGEM synthetic biology competition in 2014. She together with her other 11 teammates genetically modified E.coli (named Fit coli) that perform new function of converting fat in our guts into ALA and later on convert to DHA by the enzyme already exist inside human bodies. It serves the purpose of helping obese people lose weight and also protect their cadiovascular vessels.


Here's the wiki site of their project:


Obesity has now reached epidemic proportions worldwide, which has serious consequences because obesity is associated with various chronic human diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. With the aim to protect oneself against obesity and debilitating diseases caused by a high-fat diet, we are using a synthetic biology approach to design anEscherichia coli strain (called Fit. Coli) that has an enhanced ability to uptake and convert excess fatty acids from fatty foods into a-linolenic acid (ALA). The strategy is to engineer the fadL and fadDgenes along with three desaturase genes to facilitate the uptake of long-chain fatty acids and their biotransformation to ALA by the “Fit. Coli” strain. It is predicted that the ALA converted from excess fatty acids by Fit. Coli is converted to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3-fatty acid, in the human gut, which is well known to have many positive health benefits.


Brainstorm project topics, and learn basic gene cloning skills in summer.


The gene assemble scheme diagram

practice streak plate

At the beginning my skill was not good, but I quickly pick up the skills with more practice.


In the project, I got chance to educate high school students about iGEM and synthetic biology in the Human Practice session. From these experience, I discovered my passion in education and open-source science.


Finally comes to the presentation day in Boston. The first time I give a scientific presentation in front of professional judges.


Our team won the gold medal at iGEM Giant Jamboree

Press coverage
Project Poster

(HK Headline)

(Sing Tao Daily) 

Lessons Learnt

In the beginning she didn't know much about molecular biology and synthetic biology. She learnt them on the way while doing the experiment. Throughout the summer, she spent a lot of time in doing wet lab, reading research papers, designing wiki page as well as reach out to educate high school kids about iGEM and synthetic biology. She learnt a lot on deigning experiments, performing gene cloning, how to communicate science effectively. She also taught herself a new skills - making   website by help building the project wiki page. Since then she started teaching herself to code too!