måndag 8 november 2010

At 2:31pm, Randy said: "iGEM 2010 will be over in just a few minutes."

When you read this text, iGEM 2010 is over.

How did it go for us? Not good I'd say.

The night before the award ceremony, after all the presentations and poster sessions and talking and preaching, MIT sent every iGEM kid they could find to Jillian's in Boston, a sports club specially reserved for iGEM social. As we saw how the people were dancing, bowling and having such a blast, those of us who went there just weren't in the mood for it.

Because we were all too tired. The road to iGEM Jamboree 2010 of hard labor, late hours in the lab, in-fighting between group members and communication issues made the project anything but enjoyable. Reaching the end of the road wasn't much of an accomplishment. It was more like the end of hell. I have had two loyalties: the CSSAU community and iGEM team of Uppsala. Bouncing between these two wasn't easy, especially when the long hours in the lab consumed all of your time. One day I missed two calls from a diplomatic attache when I conducted experiments. He got angry. It took both me and Mr. Shi considerable amount of effort to quell his anger. And it was just one of the many instances when my two duties clashed.

After coming back from the party, it turned out our team didn't submit the safety questions. Me and three others finished the questions at 4am. The day after, well, I mean later that day, the iGEM award ceremony was held in Kresge auditorium, after the six finalists did their project presentations for the second time. The awards were delivered soon after. Team Uppsala didn't have much to do with it. Since the medal requirements for iGEM was criteria-based, meaning by fulfilling certain criteria, one could get a gold, silver or bronze medal. The number of medals weren't necessarily skewed, with fewer gold than silver. In fact, a lot more teams received gold than silver this year. As it turned out, so many of the teams who actually put their effort into the project were bloody serious about winning. There were also awards for each track and aspect of the Jamboree, e.g. best project in environmental science and best presentation at Jamboree. This year the winner of the iGEM grand prize was Slovenia, the team who streamlined BioBrick production and submitted 151 finished genetic constructs as a result. The 1st runner-up was Peking University. They tried to genetically engineer a bacteria to fight water pollution. They were also the winner of the Environmental track. The 2nd runner-up, or third place was Bristol, who constructed bacteria for agricultural purposes. The other three finalists were Imperial College London, Cambridge and TU Delft. Aside from their gold medal, they were all winners of their respective track or specialty.

Bing had to leave earlier to visit her relatives in New Jersey. Hsin-ho and Imtiyaz also left for New York City. Me and Antonio went separate ways. I ran into Sophia at the entrance, must to my amusement. We exchanged a few words, and she told me how little I changed since 2006. She recognized me right away. I ate lunch with Allen, who happened to be a judge for the Human Practice aspect of various projects. On Tuesday, I'm meeting Mengxiao. My mother's old colleague Jifa invited me to dinner. I told him to pick me up at my hotel, because I had to get my gift for him. So I walked the same way me and Antonio did on the first night of this event.

Without the excitement and anxiety of my iGEM anticipation, I felt like I was drained off all the energy. Without any glory or honor in competing against the other teams, I was just another visitor lost in Boston. Or Cambridge. Back in my hotel room, I called my parents and told my friends about what transpired here. Also, I've been thinking about the next year's iGEM in Uppsala. This time with a regional qualification round. You have to beat more than half of the European teams to make it to the iGEM final in MIT. The scale of iGEM Jamboree is growing out of control so MIT won't even have a big enough auditorium to gather all the participants. Hence, this decision is a necessary pain. If Uppsala is to make it to the final round, the information from this iGEM must pass on to the next. Furthermore, the organizational structure, team dynamics, interaction with the university, company and social sector must undergo major improvements. At the moment there is one guy at the X program who's involved himself with the iGEM 2011. But he has no prior experience. In my opinion, many of the guys who are currently recruited don't seem like the kind of people you'd expect to see in the lab. After the iGEM Jamboree, I have lots of ideas I'd like to try with iGEM 2011. If my ambitions of iGEM 2011 are to be realized, first I have to find myself in a position where my experience can come to use. I suspect it requires more aggressive negotiations than I like. One of the possible obstacles is the influence of a certain person. But that we'll have to see. In order to get the International student coordinator involved, initially our team discussed the possibility of showing our image as a way to help recruit foreign master students, countering the drop with the fee introduced. However, right now I've got reasons to worry that it might not turn out as planned. For personal reasons, I'm not going to disclose this part further.

When Jifa was paying for the nicest dinner I ever had in America, I took a fortune cookie from the table and opened it. The paper strip said: If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it. I saved this paper to remind myself in times of difficulties and doubt, like this one.

1 kommentar:

  1. I admire your ambition, dedication and humbleness to learn. This combination is powerful and not easily to co-exist.

    There are a few things that have benefited me when i was leading a group that may help you.
    1. There is only one supreme group leader. No need to recruit people who's main talent is to lead. because they will fight you.
    2. chose some analysts (they tend to be introverts and interested in the truth.) Their willingness to work is usually derived in curiosity and ability to deduce complex problems to principles and induce these principles into new insights/devices
    3. pragmatics: these people will make things happen on command. they are not idealists or theorists. These people are important for making things real.
    4. Supporters: general loyalists to you. They can be distributed in the group so that your commands will be carried and agreed. They provide peer pressure to dissenters.
    5. outreachers: they are gererally good persuaders/business type/lawyer type. They help with connections, university/lab contacts, etc.

    Besides the strategic recruitment of people, the leader needs to assume important decision responsibility. Make decisively good choices, and share the decision process with others to some point. One good way to ensure leadership is to be in command of something crucial to the project. For example, if making devices with a lab is important, you have to make the connection and have command over the connection. This way, there is real threat to the project if people dont follow you.

    In general, people are always the most important assets of a group, not the project. So choose the people well. Also, you can give quizzes to potential members to make sure of their talents and abilities (could be analytical, domain knowledge, persuasion, etc.)

    This is the ideal team, of course, things will deviate in real life. The more they deviate, the less qualified will be your team...

    Anyways, this is my general experience and learnings from the wise.