Introducing Team artico

After the tremendous success of team "optoptosis" Duesseldorf in 2016 it was clear that the iGEM spirit would be continued in Duesseldorf. In order to establish iGEM at another university as well, we decided to collaborate with the University of Cologne.

Looking back in time, collaboration between our two cities is nothing to be taken for granted, since the rivalry between the cities Duesseldorf and Cologne has been going on since the early 13th century. Nevertheless, we decided to put our rivalries aside and join forces for a much, MUCH bigger cause. With this year’s project we want to take a step towards synthetic cells by creating a fully controllable artificial compartment. Inspired by our scientific approach we decided to call our team “artico”.
This year’s team consists of 19 members, three instructors and three advisors from the University of Cologne and the Heinrich Heine University, Duesseldorf. We are especially proud to have built a team that does not only consist of straight forward biologists but also includes quantitative biologists, biochemists and even a physicist, forming an interdisciplinary group of young minds to achieve the best possible results in this year’s iGEM competition.



Instructors and Advisors


Aikaterini Karapantsiou

  • Nickname: Katen
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Biology & Psychology
  • Hobbies: Travelling, Reading, Learning new languages, Spending time with my family and friends
  • Favorite Chemical: (5-amino-2,3-dihydrophtalazine-1,4-dione) = Luminol :)
  • Favorite Beer: Guinness'n'black

Anna Sappler

  • Nickname: Annanice
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Biochemistry
  • Hobbies: Art, Clarinet, Swimming
  • Favorite Chemical: HCl- uncomplicated and useful
  • Favorite Beer: Füchschen Alt (local brewery)

Bastiaan Tjeng

  • Nickname: Frittenking
  • University: University of Cologne/ Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Quantitative Biology
  • Hobbies: Bouldering
  • Favorite Chemical: Nitrogen monoxide
  • Favorite Beer: RheinCraft

Daniela Wall

  • Nickname: Dani
  • University: University of Cologne/ Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Quantitative Biology
  • Hobbies: Sailing, Reading, Traveling
  • Favorite Chemical: Ethidium bromide
  • Favorite Beer:

Eric Behle

  • Nickname: Örisch
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Physics
  • Hobbies: Basketball, Biking, Netflix
  • Favorite Chemical: Dihydrogen Monoxide
  • Favorite Beer: Budweiser (the czech kind)

Fiona Edenhofer

  • Nickname:
  • University: University of Cologne
  • Study Path: Biology
  • Hobbies: Gymnastics, Skiing
  • Favorite Chemical: Sulfuric acid
  • Favorite Beer: Früh Kölsch

Hendrik Cooper

  • Nickname: Coopie, Coopsi
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Biology
  • Hobbies: Photography, reading
  • Favorite Chemical: 3-Hydroxytyramin
  • Favorite Beer: Hacker-Pschorr

Jan Maika

  • Nickname: Jamaika, Kaiser Schmarrn, Prinz Hairy, Lord der Lappen, König Alfons, Fürst Wurst, Janitalia
  • University: University of Cologne/ Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Quantitative Biology
  • Hobbies: Football, Badminton
  • Favorite Chemical: Hydrogen peroxide
  • Favorite Beer:-

Jason Müller

  • Nickname: Jay
  • University: University of Cologne/ Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Quantitative Biology
  • Hobbies: Guitar, Piano, Drawing, Bike and Sports in general
  • Favorite Chemical: Luminol
  • Favorite Beer: It is a hard decision...

Kristin Gehling

  • Nickname: Tini
  • University: University of Cologne
  • Study Path: Biology
  • Hobbies: Horse riding, Skiing, netflix
  • Favorite Chemical: Methyltheobromin
  • Favorite Beer: Mühlen Kölsch

Lisa Wolpers

  • Nickname: Lisbeth
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Biology
  • Hobbies: Sports, Baking
  • Favorite Chemical: ATP
  • Favorite Beer: Allgäuer Büble-Bier

Manuel Lentzen

  • Nickname: Manu, The expert
  • University: University of Cologne/ Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Quantitative Biology
  • Hobbies: Hiking, Cycling
  • Favorite Chemical: Caffeine
  • Favorite Beer: Andechs wheat beer

Marvin van Aalst

  • Nickname: Christian
  • University: University of Cologne/ Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Quantitative Biology
  • Hobbies: Drumming and sports
  • Favorite Chemical: Cinnamaldehyde
  • Favorite Beer: Nonalcoholic wheat beer

Pauline Ott

  • Nickname: Pauli
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Biology
  • Hobbies: Drawing, German wheel
  • Favorite Chemical: Lysergic acid diethylamide
  • Favorite Beer: Alt

Philipp Müller

  • Nickname:
  • University: University of Cologne
  • Study Path: Biology
  • Hobbies: Drums and Reading
  • Favorite Chemical:
  • Favorite Beer: Reissdorf Kölsch

Philipp Rink

  • Nickname: Flippo
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Biology
  • Hobbies: My pets
  • Favorite Chemical: Penguinone
  • Favorite Beer: Kölsch (Peters)

René Inckemann

  • Nickname: Inckemeier
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Biology
  • Hobbies: Riding motorbike, playing guitar, music
  • Favorite Chemical: PvuII
  • Favorite Beer: Erdinger Weißbier

Tobias Brünger

  • Nickname: Tobi
  • University: University of Cologne/ Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Quantiative Biology
  • Hobbies: Orchestra, sports
  • Favorite Chemical: Water
  • Favorite Beer: Früh Kölsch

Alina Kuklinski

  • Nickname: Saladhead
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Biology
  • Hobbies: Table tennis, Travelling, Hiking, Partying
  • Favorite Chemical: Trimethyl borate- because it is a colourless liquid that burns with a green flame
  • Favorite Beer: Tyskie (Polish beer)

Carolin Krämer

  • Nickname: Mutti
  • University: Heinrich Heine Universtiy Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Biology
  • Hobbies: Cooking, Baking, Reading
  • Favorite Chemical: Sodium chloride
  • Favorite Beer: Reissdorf Kölsch

Kai Hußnätter

  • Nickname: Kai der Becher
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: PhD Biology, Applied microbiology
  • Hobbies: Biking, Inline Skating, Cooking and Baking
  • Favorite Chemical: Monosodium glutamate
  • Favorite Beer: Hansa Pils in a 0,33l can and Bolten (local Alt-brewery)

Marvin Hubert

  • Nickname: Hubsi
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: Biology
  • Hobbies: Sports, music and spending time with friends
  • Favorite Chemical: Ethanol
  • Favorite Beer: Veltins

Nicolas Schmelling

  • Nickname: Internet boy, Licht boy
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: PhD Computational Biology
  • Hobbies: Football, Fantasy
  • Favorite Chemical: Testosteron
  • Favorite Beer: Founder All Day IPA

Tim Blomeier

  • Nickname: Jimmy
  • University: Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf
  • Study Path: PhD Biology
  • Hobbies: Basketball, Swimming, Eating
  • Favorite Chemical: Fluorescin
  • Favorite Beer: herrliches Herforder

Nicolas Krink

  • Nickname: Nerd on Skype
  • University: MPI Marburg and SYNMIKRO Marburg
  • Study Path: PhD Student
  • Hobbies: Cooking (in the Lab)
  • Favorite Chemical: dNTPs
  • Favorite Beer: Flying Dog Blood Orange IPA

The birth of artico

Presentation of various ideas

Deciding on the project topic sets the basis for the team’s motivation and success and enables planning for the next months. Knowing about the importance of this decision it was indispensable to discuss the goals, concepts and realizability with experts, first of all with our principal investigator, Prof. Matias Zurbriggen, head of the institute for synthetic biology in Duesseldorf. Additionally we invited more Professors interested in iGEM to get as many expert opinions and feedback as possible from different points of view. We were more than happy to have Prof. Andreas Weber, head of the Institute for plant biochemistry in Duesseldorf, Jun-Prof. Ilka Maria Axmann, head of the Institute for Synthetic Microbiology and Prof. Michael Feldbrügge, head of the Institute for Microbiology providing us with their opinion. Also Danny Ducat, Assistant Professor at the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry at the Michigan State University joined.

Before meeting with the professors we focused on three final projects and prepared presentations containing the lab design and possible subprojects as well as the motivation and story behind each topic. After providing an overview we had lively discussions with the professors. They did not only give valuable feedback but also asked critical questions, thereby helping us to look at aspects we did not think of before. Furthermore, Nicolas Krink (Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg) helped us to reflect the topics from the point of view as a judge, as he was one at the iGEM-competition in 2016.
We were very thankful to get the opportunity to present the projects. The expertise of all the people who were present helped us to revise the concepts and finally decide on the this year’s project a short time after.

Teambuilding and Project Selection

Shortly after our cooperation team came together for the first time in February, the idea of an external working weekend was born. We wanted to intensively work on our topic selection and our Cologne-Duesseldorf collaboration mission. Another important aspect was to get to know the people we were going to work together with for nearly one year. After a few weeks of paper-reading, internet research and browsing through books, the date and destination of our final decision weekend was set and everybody was excited to finally determine our topic. With a lot of input from previous discussions and meetings, we arrived in Aachen with two really well prepared and quite different projects on which we decided shortly after arrival. This is how the peroxisome turned out to be our fellow team member and test subject for the rest of the year.

The youth hostel in Aachen offered the opportunity to work in a conference room, and so everybody worked on the goal with growing enthusiasm to fully build our project. We discussed possibilities on how to share potential sub projects between Cologne and Duesseldorf since we wouldn’t work together in the same lab. Our instructors gave presentations on basic methods in the lab as well as on several iGEM standards we would use during our work. In the evening we visited Aachen’s inner city, a pub and had a night walk in the forest.
All in all the weekend was a definite success: we set our project topic, the motivation was pushed to the limit and we were ready to get started with the practical work united as a team.

Meeting other teams

European Meetup in Delft

On the 7th of July we were luckily invited to join the European iGEM meetup in Delft. Of course we did not want to miss the chance to listen to interesting talks by the european iGEM teams and speakers from many different research areas! So we took our pens and college blocks and drove to Rotterdam on thursday evening, in order to be fit for the first official day of the meetup.
In the morning we drove to Delft. As soon as we arrived we got in touch with several other iGEM teams like Graz, Bielefeld and Munich and talked about our projects and possible collaborations.
As the doors opened we were really excited to listen to the first presentation by Prof. Dr. Cees Dekker from the TU Delft, who gave a talk about developing a synthetic cell with molecular components using biophysical approaches. The second speaker, Prof. Dr. Denis J Murphy from the University of South Wales, informed us about using bioinformatic approaches for big Data analysis. Furthermore, he pointed out the importance of computational biology in order to gain biological knowledge that can be used to improve efficiency of agriculture. The last presentation was given by Asst. Prof. Dr. Dirk Stemerding from the Dutch Rathenau Institute. He initiated an interactive and ethical discussion about how science should take social aspects into account like societal needs and values and how it should communicate to the society. It was very interesting to hear the opinions of so many young researchers!

After the talks we had a really nice lunch together with the other iGEM teams in order to regain strength for the upcoming poster presentations. The poster session was a breathtaking experience: It was overwhelming to see how much effort even undergraduate students can put into their projects! Next to providing antiserums against snake-poisons we were informed about the extensions of the genetic code, which demonstrates the diversity and innovation each iGEM team spreads into the world of science! This showed us yet again, how proud each team id of their scientific ambitions. After listening to each project description and building cooperations, all iGEM participants joined for a big photo. Last but not least we all met up for a united BBQ and celebrated each other’s achievements.
We want to thank all participants for this event and especially the iGEM team from TU Delft for organizing of such a big and well prepared experience! :)

German Meetup in Dresden

From the 30th of June until the 2nd of July we participated in the German-Wide iGEM-Meetup. We were invited by the iGEM team Dresden to visit them in their beautiful city. After a long adventurous ride across Germany we arrived in Dresden in the late afternoon. On Friday evening all teams met at the park for some icebreaker-games and a party afterwards. It was amazing to meet people who share the same passion – synthetic biology.
On Saturday every participating iGEM team gave a short talk about their project and some captivating discussions followed. After the student talks Marcel Thiel from Promega gave a talk about qRT-PCR troubleshooting. In the early evening team Dresden showed us around the city and surprised us with a Tortilla-Party. Having their iGEM Goes Green project in mind they served a variety of delicious vegan food and paid special attention to environmental sustainability.

On Sunday they held an iGEM Goes Green workshop to inform us how to reduce our carbon footprint in and outside the lab. It is disturbing how much waste we produce in our labwork and how easy it is to reduce it. The workshop was really impressing and energized for thinking. Furthermore they organized a collaboration speed dating where all teams could discuss about possible ways to help each other. iGEM Dresden put so much effort in this Meetup and it has been fantastic. It was the beginning of so many friendships and collaborations between iGEM teams. Finally we drove home with tons of new knowledge and energy.

Camping with Team Aachen

On the 10th of June we went camping with our dear friends from iGEM team Aachen to fuse our iGEM spirits. For that we rented a little camping spot in the beautiful Heimbach located in the low mountain range Eifel in North-Rhine-Westphalia. As soon as we had prepared our tents we went for a nice hike and took an ice-cold bath in the fresh Eifel-water.
As a nice surprise, we found a rent-a-boat shop and of course took the chance to start a boat trip. We were pretty shocked when we encountered a sea-bear, but luckily our expert and savior Manuel Lentzen drew an anti-sea-bear circle around us, so it just went away. As we returned to our camp spot we played some social games and shared our plans and thoughts about iGEM. As the last activity we went for a night-hike; it was a lot of fun. Because it was a clear night, we decided to forget about our tents and slept under the stars!

The next morning we had a tasty breakfast just before we went home; thank you iGEM team Aachen for this amazing camping trip! :)

iGEM – not an ordinary competition

iGEM is a synthetic biology competition which enables students to realize their own lab project together as a team. One year full of work, facing problems, not enough sleep and losing the view for everything besides iGEM. As this sounds like something nobody would do voluntarily there must be „something“ special about iGEM! After all this time we think we have finally solved this mystery and found the crucial „something“!

The first time we got a hint what this something might be was at the German Meetup in Dresden. Meeting other teams who are in the same situation and share the same interests was quite amazing! New friendships have been built pretty quickly and the whole atmosphere was filled with so much fresh energy, creativity and scientific curiosity! After meeting all these awesome people we were pretty excited to see them again at the European Meetup in Delft. Furthermore we met a whole lot of other teams and had a tremendous time.

The fact that we would not be seeing our new friends again until November at the Giant Jamboree saddened us. As this was quite a long time we decided to throw an iGEM party in September for a last scientific exchange, asking questions and helping each other. The evening made us forget all the iGEM stress for a moment and we simply enjoyed the wonderful time together.

We had a great time together with iGEM Darmstadt, iGEM Aachen, iGEM Bielefeld and iGEM Heidelberg and are looking forward to organize an after iGEM Meeting in 2018 to keep up these friendships!

To solve the mysterious riddle what’s so special about iGEM, we think that this special feeling is– feeling good about spending your time in and outside the lab for iGEM, being proud of the own project and achieved results AND last but definitely not least being a part of the rising synthetic biology community!

Singapore SB7.0 conference

The Flight

At about 12:00 we met at the Duesseldorf airport, with our bags packed and ready to go. Being about 2 hours early, we had absolutely no trouble getting through the check-in and security. After that we met up with Rocio a PhD student from our university who coincidentally was also going to the SB7.0 and spend the last hour before boarding eating something small and talking about the trip.

Because we were supposed to fly with an A380, we were a little disappointed when we realized that there was just an A330 waiting for us but after a pretty fast boarding we were ready to leave for our first destination — Dubai.

The food as well as the service on board were outstanding and so the hours until landing past in no time. When we reached Dubai international airport we were already pretty exhausted but while we were rolling to our gate we got our first glance at the A380 in the flesh. That thing looks like a building with wings.

The time we had to spend at the airport between flights passed pretty quick even though it was getting late and we were getting pretty sleepy – no wonder when you’re on the go for over 10 hours. When we queued in the boarding line we realized that we were going to fly with an A380 after all and seeing a man made construction like this getting ready for take-off and then actually leaving ground with you in it, is something we will probably never forget.
Because we were so tired, we pretty much fell asleep right after the lights of Dubai under us disappeared in the distance and when a nice stewardess woke us up for breakfast the sun was already rising over the horizon. Two buns with fresh cheese, a marmalade croissants and a warm cup of coffee later we realized that we were almost there. Only a few moments later the captain asked us to fasten our seat belts and get ready for landing. It was a bright day again and because the weather was so nice and sunny we got to get our first good look at the water, land and forest surrounding Singapore.


Getting of the plane and through security didn't take much time and even our luggage showed up pretty fast. After all of us changed some money at a booth we decided to take the train rather than a cab to get to university town, where we were supposed to stay for the week. The trip from the airport took us about 45 minutes and we got to get the first real impression of Singapore’s architecture and its people. The first thing we noticed were the air conditioners – Everything was air conditioned. From busses to buildings, everything was close to 17°C, so when you actually got out you had the feeling of getting hit in the face with a 40 degree hammer. On the other hand you got pretty could when you were outside for some time and then entered a building again.
The accommodation at university was quite simple. Every one of us got a plain room of about 6 to 7 square meters, with a bed, a closet and of course an air condition.

The Conference

On our second day in Singapore, the first day of the conference, we really felt the jet-lag. Getting up at 7:00 was like waking up in the middle of the night and we would have struggled pretty hard with staying awake the whole day, if it wasn't for a scientist's best friend — coffee. The conference was held in the university’s museum and because we got there so early, we didn’t have to queue for entrance and could look around a little. The entrance hall was used for food, booths of companies and light conversation during the breaks, whereas the first floor was reserved for the poster session in the afternoon.

Participants from all over the world could display their research results and answer regarding questions. The talks themselves were given in a big room with a great atmosphere, a little reminiscent of a theater, with very comfortable chairs and a several storage gallery.

The presentations started out great and many interesting talks were given, most of them focused on foundational science. The food we got in the breaks was very tasty and together with a nice big coffee, we were ready for the next speakers. When the talks were over everyone met in the lobby and then wandered around looking at the different posters, asking questions and taking notes.

Over the course of four days the conference offered talks and presentations from all corners of the synbio field, ranging from research results and new techniques to ethics, jurisdiction and safety issues. We had the opportunity to talk to many different people, including Drew Endy, Megan Palmer, Tobias Erb, John Glass and the iGEM Headquarter.

We even organized a small meet-up with three other iGEM Teams attending the conference. There we presented our projects to each other and also to interested people, like Richard Kitney from imperial college, who gave us great feedback on our project and our presentational style.


But the conference itself wasn’t the only place you could connect with interesting minds. After the talks and the poster sessions, we set out to explore the city and its culture together with a few other people from various countries. From Chinatown and little India to the botanical garden and Orchard Road, this city does not fail to amaze. In the evening we enjoyed the exotic food and talked about the presentations we were most interested in and the possible future of the field.

The last two days were especially exciting, since we had the opportunity, to attend two big dinner events in the name of synthetic biology that celebrated the launch of the SynBio LEAP program and the great success of the SB7.

In the end, Singapore was an amazing chance for us to learn, to network and to grow, not only as individuals but as a team.


From May 16th to 18th one of Europe's largest laboratory equipment trade fairs, the "Labvolution", took place in Hannover. There, companies from all over the world came together to present their latest accomplishments in improving as well as revolutionizing laboratory equipment. Because we think it is of paramount importance to look at and be open to new ideas, this was an event we could not miss! So, six of us took a train-ride to Hannover, which is roughly 3 hours away from Duesseldorf.
Right at the entrance we met some good friends: the iGEM Bielefeld was also attending! We had a nice chat with them and then delved into the fair.

The fair-grounds consisted of an enormous hall where every company attending had a booth. Zymo research, molecular devices and sigma centrifuges were big eye-catchers but there were so many others that we immediately realized we would have a hard time talking to everyone. We tried anyway!
Going around and looking at the new and exciting ideas everyone offered was wonderful! Attending the fair also provided us with the opportunity to personally talk to many of the companies’ representatives.
Among others we talked to people from Sigma, who are experts in centrifuge-design. They were happy to provide us with our own centrifuge, which has been an invaluable addition to our laboratory setup! We also had the opportunity to meet up with Maike Wirth, who is the Molecular Devices Sales supervisor for Germany and Austria. They lent us a plate-reader which we desperately needed for many of our subprojects!

Next, we got together with Socorex, who excel at fabricating pipettes. They let us test some of their products, which have been used to pipette substantial amounts of liquid.
Zymo research was another company we were very happy to meet. They are now one of our most important sponsors, providing us with wonderful products such as DNA-purification and Gel clean-up systems.

While there were many companies who knew about iGEM, there were also some who had never heard of the competition before! We therefore made a point of informing everyone we could in order to further increase iGEM's reach.

At the end of the day we went home feeling exhausted but full of accomplishments. The ride home took much longer than before but still we all agree that it was a worthwhile trip!