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Augustin Chabrillac and Anis Ladram (EPITA class of 2020), silver medalists at the 2019 iGEM competition

Augustin Chabrillac and Anis Ladram (EPITA class of 2020), silver medalists at the 2019 iGEM competition

At the end of October, Augustine Chabrillac and Anis Ladram (EPITA class of 2020) flew to Boston to participate in the Grand Finale of the iGEM, the largest international student competition dedicated to synthetic biology. Together with members of the iGEM IONIS team, which included students from four engineering schools in the IONIS Education Group (ESME Sudria, IPSA, Sup’Biotech and EPITA), the two 5th year students traveled to the Hynes Convention Center where they presented Cinergy, their eco-responsible project  developed to recycle cigarette butts to produce electrical energy. Winner of a silver medal together with his teammates, Augustin spoke to us about this unforgettable experience.

Augustin (in the background, on the right) and his teammates

How did you become interested in the iGEM competition?

Augustin Chabrillac: I discovered iGEM at the beginning of my school year at EPITA, when managing director Joël Courtois spoke to us about creating a future team consisting of students from the different schools in the IONIS Education Group. I thought it would be interesting to work with people who do not have the same centers of interest or areas of expertise as me. And I was really happy about joining the team because I was able to learn many things from other students specialized in biology and electronics. For example, before joining the iGEM IONIS team, I did not know anything about synthetic biology, which in fact can be used to create everything!

Through synthetic biology, this year’s iGEM IONIS team developed a project using cigarette butts to generate electrical energy. Did this concept interest you?

In fact, I wanted to join the team before even knowing what the project was about.  When I learned what the concept was, I found it very interesting! Moreover, as a non-smoker, I always find it disturbing to see so many cigarette butts on the streets of Paris.  I therefore particularly enjoyed working on a project like Cinergy, which is environmentally-friendly, thanks to the recycling aspect.

What was your role on the team?

I mainly participated in creating the Wiki page. This Internet site had to list all information related to Cinergy: how our work progressed over the nine month period, the identity of our partners, our financing, the description of our laboratory sessions, the list of our additional activities, etc. Once created, the site was judged by the Jury in Boston and represented a significant part of the project’s final score.

Speaking of Boston, how was the finale?

When we arrived at the Hynes Convention Center, we found ourselves surrounded by nearly 3,000 students from around the world! During the week, we were not only able to present Cinergy, we also spent time speaking with teams from different countries and discovered many innovative projects.  In addition, we had the opportunity to visit the city together and spent a great evening at the French Consulate! They had organized a reception for all the French teams on October 31.

Was this your first trip to the United States?

Yes. Before, I mainly traveled around Europe and I spent my EPITA international semester abroad in South Africa.

Did collaborating over such a long period with other future engineers change your way of working?

Yes, mainly on an organizational level. When you work on a project with 15 other people who have different schedules, it can quickly become complicated to find time to meet if you are not well-organized. This required the setting up of weekly meetings, and especially the complete commitment of each team member!

What advice would you give EPITA students who would like to join the iGEM IONIS team in the future?

To give it their all because they are going to have an unforgettable experience, to forget their daily routine focused on information technology and discover other fields, to expand their knowledge and work in teams for nine months on what will be one of the greatest projects during their school years.

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