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Black Science Whiz on History-Making M.I.T. Gene Team April 30, 2008

Posted by twilightandreason in Higher Education.
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The MIT research team responsible for creating the world's first mint- and banana-scented E. coli.

The 2006  iGem research team: Stephen Payne (from left), Boyuan Zhu, Tom Knight, Reshma Shetty, Andre Green, Veena Venkatachalam, Samantha Sutton, Jason Kelly, Austin Che, Barry Canton, and Kate Broadbent. 

The person who first said “youth is wasted on the young” didn’t know the student scientists on M.I.T.’s 2006 iGem research team. This group of student scientists has  recently received national and international attention for engineering a form of e. coli that smells minty fresh. The idea of mint-smelling bacteria is peculiar enough, in and of itself; but its strangeness is amplified by the fact that, in this case, the wintergreen is wafting from e. coli, that notorious bacteria (iGem team members describe it as smelling like “poop”) that aids and abets digestion when confined to the intestines, but causes severe illness and even death when ingested (usually accidentally) by mouth.

For this team of young scientists, however, creating mint-scented e. coli was only the beginning. Their next innovation grew out of a desire to avoid the tedium of waiting around in the lab, monitoring their e. coli cultures to determine when there were finish growing. To address this issue, the M.I.T. research team went back to work, manipulating the genes of their already altered bacteria until they found a solution. They were able toalter the genes in their e. coli sample significantly enough to effect this shift in it’s odor: while it is growing it smells like wintergreen, but when it stops growing, it smells strongly of banana.

To hear an NPR interview with a couple of the members of the iGem 2006 research team, click HERE.

The research team behind this history-making research project includes only one African American member, Delbert Andre Green, II, a native of Louisiana and a major in Biological Engineering, M.I.T.’s newest major. He is part of the institute’s first class of Biological Engineering majors and will graduate this spring (2008). 

Green  has long been interested in life sciences. For example, he showed a strong aptitude for science at the age of 16, when he was awarded a $1000 prize from the Dupont Center for Collaborative Research, through the 2003 Intel ISEF Government & Industry Awards. His winning research project was titled, “Unique Combination of Linear Algebra, Differentiation and Integration Techniques to Elucidate the Implications of Kidney Stone Characteristics.

At M.I.T. Andre has served as an officer in the Black Student Union, the Biology Undergraduate Students Association, and Advocates for Awareness, a race and diversity awareness organization.

Andre Green in the Lab

Engineer at work: Andre Green in the Lab

Posted by Ajuan Mance




1. mit good smelling e coli - June 19, 2008

[…] and of itself … They were able toalter the genes in their e. coli sample significantly enough …https://twilightandreason.wordpress.com/2008/04/30/black-science-whiz-on-history-making-mit-gene-team…IGEM:MIT/2006/System brainstorming – OpenWetWareeliminate indole pathway responsible for bad E. coli […]

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