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Cornell iGEM

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Team Members

Eric Holmes

Beware of Eric Holmes, the fearless leader of CUGEM who grew up in the hood. His disturbing character is immediately evident by his love for dead fish, as his latest kill is proudly displayed on his phone case. He relentlessly pursues these innocent creatures in the hope of wiping them off the face of the earth. Some call it fishing. Watch out for his killer jokes; you may shoot yourself after hearing them ten times. These also usually involve fish. In addition, he seems to enjoy trekking for days through miles of monotonous forest in order to …end up where he started. He occasionally drags innocent freshmen along for the ride. Despite all this, no one can dispute that Eric is a brilliant bioengineer, and so his curious hobbies have gone unquestioned.

Arun Chakravorty

Arun Chakravorty was found on the sandy shores of California, fully grown, in fetal position, borne from the sea foam of the great pacific. No one is sure how Arun came to be, but they have attributed his bubbly personality to the sea foam from whence he came, and his rich color to the sun, which he laid in for many days before he was discovered, giving him a tan that makes pale white girls cringe with jealousy. Arun, after rising from the gold sand on which he was found, then travelled the world, learning invaluable skills like cloning, a Capella, and FIFA. He needed strikers for his exclusively Argentinian FIFA team, so he travelled to Argentina and persuaded two men named Palacio and Milito to train and become world class soccer players. He then realized he could combine his three skills of cloning, singing, and FIFA, and become one of the most unique people to walk the face of the earth. He travelled to Ithaca, New York, and joined Cornell iGEM. Now, Arun spends his days cloning while simultaneously playing FIFA and singing songs of both praise and loathing (depending on the situation) for Milito and Palacio, with whom he plays as. Arun hates Palacio for growing a rat tail, but still enjoys his superior soccer capabilities. Arun’s hobbies include long walks on the beach and base jumping. He was also the inspiration for Tom Haverford, a character in the hit series, Parks and Recreation.

Samah Hoque

At first, Samah Hoque might seem like your ordinary iGem wetlab minion. But don’t be fooled by her innocent smile and kind demeanor. After graduating from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Samah turned down a job from the Ministry of Magic and came to Cornell University, where the eternal frozen tundra and endless days without sunlight constantly remind her of London. She spends plenty of time down in the basement lab space of Weill because it brings back her fondest childhood memories of living in a cramped cupboard under the stairs. With a single spell, Samah is able to bring bacteria to life by tricking them into thinking LB is delicious butterbeer. In dire lab situations, Samah must conjure her patronus, a rare form of Escherichia coli to ward away all evils from her precious bacterial colonies. When not in lab, Samah can be found dominating Quidditch games on the Arts Quad or reading about the dark arts in the library. 100 points to Samah Hoque for being iGem’s secret weapon.

Casey Zhang

Casey toils away in lab night and day, but only to feign a hardworking nature, as few are aware that this is because she prefers to remain discreet about her dwelling in the legendary interstitial space. (It has been heard that she unlocks it with a special pattern of light reflected by her carefully painted nails.) There is little known about the contents of this mysterious corner of our building, though we do suspect that it is filled with a surplus of baked goods, based on the delicious aroma wafting into the basement from a crack in its door. It is only fitting that the creator of these fine fragrances is none other than Casey, whose cream puffs will send you into the heaven of all food comas. But you must also be wary, for no one is quite certain of her recipes. The last iGEMer that recklessly wandered into the interstitial space reappeared weeks later as a half-eaten bag of dorito chips, so we are forced to wait for Casey to approach us with her offerings. Yet those, too, may be bewitched – any who cannot resist the goodness should fear transformation into a cuddly puppy. Unless you’re into that. Never fear, this adorable witch definitely won’t be able to eat you alive, though, because you would be long gone before she could finish chewing her first bite.

Kevin Hui

Entering Kevin Hui's kitchen is a life changing experience. Whether it's an oven-roasted chicken, apple-crumb pie, or fancy biscotti served with ginger cheesecake that you desire, Kevin can make it, and he will leave you craving for more. His discerning tongue makes team socials far more savory. That said, this foodie from Long Island is also an aspiring assassin. If he's not busy cooking you dinner or wiping the floor in a Dota 2 match, he's probably plotting your murder. Each of his targets receives a uniquely catered ending. You better not get on his wrong side or the rice noodles you're enjoying may well be the end of you. One way to hold on to your precious life is to never mess with this man's pizza. He will eat only the finest NYC thin crust pies and will find anything below his standards offensive. Anyone from Chicago would be well advised to keep their distance from this conniver. If you are special enough to earn a spot on his hit list, instrumental music and Steam sales are known to pacify him. And if you somehow manage to survive, you'll find that this master chef, pizza connoisseur, and hobbyist assassin is an indispensable member of the Cornell iGEM team.

Gargi Ratnaparkhi

Gargi, standing at 3’7” and originally from the Shire, now resides exclusively in lab. She journeyed to Ithaca all the way from Middle Earth for the sole purpose of aiding Cornell iGEM. On any given day or time, you can find her staring angrily at the centrifuge while waiting for her minipreps or staring angrily at cells, trying to force them to transform with her mind. Although infamous for her skills in Ice Ball (patent pending) and her delicious cake, Gargi is less known for her not too terrible saxophone playing and her ability to crack boulders over her swimmer’s shoulders as though they were eggs. Although there is so much more to be said about Gargi Ratnaparki, this direct quote sums her up pretty well: “Five minipreps? I eat five minipreps for breakfast.”

Aaron Gittelman

In a land far, far away, where the grass stayed green and the water crystal blue, where minipreps worked and all was good, lived a young dragon-rider who soared the sky as carefree and lighthearted as the breeze that took him. Everywhere he flew over, music followed. The timbre and vibrancy of his voice, interwoven with the depth and complexity of his bass, spun even the simplest tunes into enchanting melodies. Oh how smooth and sweet they were! Everyone swooned at the mere echoes -- and did I mention his good looks? In the air, he and his dragon were one. But one day, his dragon fell ill. The deep emerald scales gave in to a pale sickly orange. For years, the rider searched for an answer, but what could it have been? Then, whispers came. "Look within." Hoping to hone his skills in the molecular world, he decided to join iGEM to first master the techniques of synthetic biology. Interviewers tried to stump him, but unbeknownst to the community, riders grew up around the art. The yellow tint in his eyes glowed as his intent gaze pierced through the dense air. His replies were as accurate as poised. By the end, he was not just any other newcomer. He was Aaron Gittelman – his name said it all.

Sharlene Dong

N Vrou van die raaisel, 'n vrou van raaisel. Ek sien jy dit durf waag om hierdie bio te vertaal haar donkerste geheime te ontsluit. Jy is gewaarsku.

Haar status: dodelik. Die P100 is haar wapen van keuse. Op 'n skaal van 1-4, Sharlene is Biosafety Vlak 10 Sy kan etanol steriliseer jou tenderest druk punte voor spuit haar vrag van dodelike gifstowwe. Wat deur die manier, is gesintetiseer gebruik om kennis oorgedra van antieke 5000-jarige Chinese alchemicy. Sy vlieg, nooit loop, het sy horlosies, nooit slaap. Jou enigste hoop op oorlewing is om haar te lei met 'n boeiende episode van Game of Thrones. Dit of blink voorwerpe.

Jy het dit so ver, jy is dapper.

Afrikaans filler text, because Latin is too mainstream. Sharlene’s a fan.

Neema Patel

Neema do I begin to explain Neema Patel? Neema Patel is magical. It's said that her legs are insured for $10,000. People say that she does bubble tea commercials in Taiwan. Her favorite movie is Mean Girls. Once she met Chris Pratt at an all-you-can-eat buffet. He told her to stop hoarding all the cupcakes. One time during Ice Ball (many times actually), she threw ice at was not awesome.

Olya Spassibojko

No person is ever what they appear to be, and Olya Spazzabyolkajdksajfiodas is certainly no exception. Look under those perfectly placed spectacles and you’ll find an avid Anberlin advocate fluent in Ubbi Dubbi and prone to turning anything and everything turquoise. No one really knows how to spell her name, and people have learned it is better not to try. The brave souls who did were stripped of their sanity, never to recover. She has made a home out of the grand trees of Ithaca, and if you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of her masterfully navigating them. It is rumoured that from her birth in the distant Russian mountains, she attained her nimble skills during her tutalage under the continent's most notorious ninja. She will purr if you pet her, but petters beware – stay too long and you too will find yourself infected with a deep love of domestic felines and working with yeast. She climbs, she meows, she takes her bunny out on walks. She is Olya Spazzabyolkajdksajfiodas: resident cat lover and professional monkey.

Sara Gregg

SaraGregg is Cornell iGEM’s resident celebrity power couple rivaling the firepower of Brangelina and the sheer intrigue of Kimye. When she’s not using her gazelle-like endurance prowess to ski across Ithaca or run to Drylab meetings on Sunday mornings (a little extra sleep never hurts, right?) she’s using it to put in late night hours at the machine shop or to swoon over Korean dramas until 4am. A master of the 3D printer, she’ll print a plastic cake and simply stare at it, willing the tasty morsel she’s been craving into existence. This girl from small-town Ohio is a true city girl at heart, and all you Gregory Sarah’s out there better watch out for her; Sara is ready to produce her very own SynBio drama and the first SaraGreggGregSarah power couple to rule them all.

Steven Li

Steven Li is a super hero. His power of course, is: ________. Despite being quite elusive to even his closest of team members, who haven't seen him in months, Super-Stealthy-Steven can be recognized by his iconic wooden cross necklace, from which he draws his power. Rumored to be a demigod born from the Western God Franisco-San Francisco to you- He has decided to leave his home, many leagues away, to solve the many crimes of current Eastern society the main one being: selfies. In a private interview, to which he never appeared, it is documented that Steven is diligently working on destroying the power of selfies by photo-bombing each and every one. Because of the plethera of selfies being taken in our day and age, Steven is rather busy and doesn't stay in one place for very long. So if you haven't seen Steven in awhile, don't worry he is off being the grand super hero that he is!

Joseph Fridman

The year was 1989. Even as the Cold War raged on, the USSR and the ideology it represented were in their death throes. In an act of desperation, the Politburo sought to develop a new propaganda apparatus, hoping that by effectively spreading pro-Soviet sentiment worldwide support for the enfeebled superpower would increase, and the tides would turn. To that end, Joseph Fridman was created. With a disarming kindness and an extraordinary intellect, he was capable of convincing anyone whom he spoke to that the path to prosperity was painted red. After a battery of evaluations, Fridman was sent to America with the goal of neutralizing it as an adversary to communism. However, upon arrival in the US, he was staggered by the wealth and majesty of the republic. After thinking it through, he decided to defect to the capitalist West. Without his assistance, the Soviet empire soon collapsed. Now an American citizen, the former sleeper agent has settled down, studying psychology at Cornell University (with the obvious purpose of honing his power of persuasion) and working to convince the population of Ithaca of the preeminence of CUGEM.

Ryan Ashley

There are rumors. People say things – see things – around our labs. Blonde-haired apparitions float in and out of the corners of our eyes. Visions of a gentle smile flash through team members’ minds. Perfect gels appear on the countertop, and despite the immaculate labeling, no one knows who ran them. One team member, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that on one quiet lonely afternoon as he walked by one of the sinks, he noticed it was dirty, caked with mud and beakers strewn about. Since he was the only one in the lab at the time, he decided to clean it up, but when he turned to look at the sink again, it was completely cleaned! There is agreement among the team that something … else lurks in our workspace. We’ve taken to calling our mysterious helper “Ryan” (the name just seemed to fit). We don’t know what it is or what it wants, but we do know our project wouldn’t be half as well done without it.

Rishabh Singh

They speak of a man learned beyond all others, unbound by mortal flesh. For eons, he wandered this plane, seeking new pleasures to satisfy his ageless conscience. Nothing was outside his grasp. In his wake, nations fell, civilizations flourished, and as always, the women swooned. Gradually, through the thousands of millennia, this man’s true name of power was lost to the shifting sands of time. But, word among the people speak of a him currently residing in Cornell University, assuming the identity of “Rishabh”, though veterans of the field know this is simply one of the many guises he has chosen. He currently dedicates himself to the Cornell iGEM team, lending an eternity of knowledge to this humble project team. When he is not gracing his presence in the iGEM lab space, he prefers the quiet sanctity of the indoors, proving himself among the best in the FPS gaming, his years as a skilled military tactician rendering his enemies little more than a mob of confused toddlers. Legend also speaks of his legendary pie making skills, though few live to tell the tale of a pie of such high caliber, as the sheer ecstasy of tasting one of these legendary morsels causes the human body to permanently cease function (in some parts of the world, death in such a way is considered an honorable one). This biography serves as more than just a record, it is a herald, a warning for times to come. The one named Rishabh is powerful beyond measure, though his current form may be unassuming. Woe to those that stand in his way, as he is not known to be merciful. The last recorded time his wrath was incurred, the Black Death occurred. Not even the very best of heroes can even dream of facing his final form, which is also known to be incredible sassy. So beware, beware to all those who hope to undermine his efforts. In even the most secretive of moments, do not forget. He won’t.

Ritvik Sarkar

What is the Ritvik? I'm glad you asked. Ritvik used to be our team's secret secret nonlethal weapon, until a series of not completely unrelated explosions and earthquakes alerted national media to its existence. Ritvik is the original prototype for our project, with its 20 micron filter hair outperforming all competition. We are still struggling to develop a successor that has even half the ability to make wet things into dry things. Capable of building models to ensure our team's success as well as other smaller ventures such as hostile takeover of midwestern states, Ritvik is an essential component of our team. Without its capabilities as a replacement pump system, we would be incapable of surmounting the one foot of head that stalls our team's inevitable victory.

Swati Sureka

You'd remember when you first met her, in lab. It's pretty striking at first: She [Swati] sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and she knows well every quiver of each of them. Beakers, notebooks, laptops, disembodied voices, bits and pieces of cardboard, flora and fauna of the like that have never been seen before on Planet Earth - all circle her in the air, flying around like so many transporters, enzymes, and cellular automata. She does little herself. She only plans. But her agents are numerous and splendidly organised. Is there research to be done, a paper to be abstracted, we will say, a block of DNA to be characterized, a project to be undertaken - the word is passed to the SWATi Team, the matter is organised and carried out. And if that all sounds a little intimidating, have no fear: Swati is sworn by oath to the Old Gods and the New to defend, advance, and justify through feats of meaningful scientific accomplishment the existence of human life. Just make sure you don't forget to pay your social dues...

George Danias

Tina Su

Neil Chitrao

Deep beneath the Alamogordo testing range, the United States planned their most ambitious project yet. So shrouded in secrecy was this project, not even the President of the United States was aware of its undertaking. It was to be a grand culmination of centuries of research, dwarfing even the scale of the Manhattan Project. The premise was simple: to create a humanoid embodiment of the spirit of American patriotism. Nicknamed the N.E.I.L., or Nationalistically Empowered Intelligent Lifeform, he was to be an exemplar of the American standard and ingenuity. Unfortunately he was too modern for his time, and the team of scientists, fearing for another “Cold War” style confrontation, locked N.E.I.L. in stasis until the time was right to reintroduce him to American society. That time is now. Numerous field reports have triangulated his position at Cornell University, where he has subtly placed himself within Cornell’s iGEM team. Though he tries to mask his identity, his designs are unmistakable. He is fueled by twin-powered nuclear fission reactors, rendering sleep unnecessary, explaining the numerous hours he has been sighted in the lab working on inhuman hours of sleep. It is also nigh impossible to be in his presence without the word “America” being uttered at least once, a remnant of his circuitry from the highly patriotic wartime years. Delving further into conversation, you will find a vast database of knowledge of weaponry and military aircraft, an unsurprising find due to his production during the 1940s. Despite his advanced systems, he bides his time, remaining in his low-profile state until the time arises to take up arms to defend the American ideal once more.

Michelle Zhang

Now for Michelle there’s little I can say:
Her skill is matched by none; her scheming eyes
Do always flit betwixt pipettes, with ne’er
A microliter out of place. Oh my!

Above the busy humming of our lair,
Amidst the bustling team, her focus grows;
Her data gathers, as if out of air.
Graphs pop on screen; a smile begins to show.

Fluorescent lights now flicker, silence falls
Upon the lab… we just make out the clicks
Of Eppendorf tubes popping. Softly call,
“Who’s there?” Ms. Zhang emerges, oh so slick.

What more can I say of this wondrous fiend?
Her mysteries abound; ‘tis all I’ve gleaned.

Jonlin Chen

The shining light of the grand Lighthouse of Alexandria pierced through the ebony Arabian night, guiding the royal ships of King Ptolemy II Philadelphus to the safety of the Pharos shore. After departing the Eastern Desert with crates of spices, linen, and gold, Egyptian sailors bowed to the mercy of the Great Sea and endured Her thrashing waves and whipping rain on their way home. The darkness often consumed faith in reaching Great Alexandria, that is until the fire-burning Lighthouse parted the night sky and illuminated the secure Nile Delta and familiar shores. Jonlin Chen, although human and not 120 meters tall, is Cornell iGEM's guiding light and source of all hope during times of darkness. While we, less-skilled iGEM members, are literally drowning in incomplete minipreps and restriction digests and utterly clueless on where to begin, Jonlin is the one person we can count on to show us the way. Whether it is a frantic phone call in the morning before class or a 2am Groupme message of desperation, Jonlin is always ready to help. Her fire-burning passion for bioengineering and iGEM fuels our team and shines through the often gloomy labspace during exam weeks and consecutive weeks of unsuccessful transformations, and is an inspiration to us all.

Grace Livermore

Jeffrey Ly

Tim Abbott

Prashant Sharma

Rebecca Chew

She's no bird, not an airplane...she's Rebecca Chew, the super ChemE that dabbles in modeling, dry lab, and wet lab! One day she's in goggles, another creating insane models, either way, nothing can move forward without her. How does she do all this? Two words: BUBBLE TEA. The consumption of glucose and caffeine molecules is her secret potion. One sip of this delightful beverage is enough for her to become a machine.

Nupur Bhatt

Mac Sennett

He doesn’t always operate heavy machinery, but when he does, the finger of God once again touches the earth through his work. He once purposefully maligned one of his creations, just to see what failure felt like. After he drove his car off the lot, the value increased. He once got a compliment on his appearance from his reflection. Raw materials he uses and BioBricks assemble themselves for him. Police frequently pull him over to ask for his autograph. He makes all cloning strategies succeed, even GoldenGate. The “College of Sennett” was founded at Cornell because he asked them to. He has taught old dogs every trick in the book, even the ones that aren’t written. Each night, the Sandman dreams of Mac.

Christine Soong

Rafael Martinez

He is, the most interesting man.

Erica Alonzo

Faculty Advisors

Graduate Advisors

Aravind Natarajan

DeLisa Lab
Devin Doud

Angenent Lab
Jason Kahn

Luo Lab
Taylor Stevenson

DeLisa Lab
Aljosa Trmcic

PhD, Food Science Lab
Not Pictured: Nathan Kruer-Zerhusen
Wilson Lab

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