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In this era of connectivity, privacy and encryption are becoming increasingly important. The urge to share as much information as possible within the shortest amount of time leads to an insecure digital environment. Even the Dutch institute for Statistics denoted that sharing of delicate information in an insecure way increases annually by 8 %. The enormous amount of data accessible on the internet lowers the sense of privacy and security.

QR codes – those blocky, black and white squares of digital information that take the user to an app or webpage on their smartphone – provide an accelerated and more easy way of sharing information. Thanks to QR codes, you do not have to wait long before entering an important soccer match, and you are not jostled when in line for a Beyonce concert. QR codes are a great means to share information but not secure since the information is encrypted but can also be decrypted easily.

What if the process of sharing information would focus more on safety than on its fast transmission? Imagine sensitive information would be translated into a physical status and you would first need to grow a QR code to decrypt the message. Because of a double layer of protection, the data hidden in the QR code would not be that easily read by the wrong person. 

Our project in a nutshell: we want to encrypt data into a biological QR code. 

We, QRoningen, want to tackle the global privacy problem by encrypting information with the help of bacteria. These bacteria are manipulated in a way so that they only grow when the right stimuli are given which can be in the form of light, nutrients or chemicals. The ‘hidden’ information reflected by bacteria cannot be decrypted unless the right stimuli are provided to the bacteria. This encryption in the bacterial growth conditions, together with the digital encryption produces a double layer of protection for your information. Since the bacteria first have to grow in order to reveal the code, the process is substantially slowed down, leading to a decreased risk of decryption by the wrong people. In addition, the double protected information, by both the stimuli dependent pattern of bacteria and the digital encryption algorithm, makes the QR code a safer tool to encrypt delicate information.
This way, by combining two well-known technologies, QR coding and 3D printing, team QRoningen also aims to familiarize the public with genetic engineering and synthetic biology.

Aside from the iGEM competition itself, we plan on also reaching out to high schools and to institutes of higher education to allow school kids and young students coming into contact with the field of genetic engineering and, even broader, academic research. 

About iGEM

The international Genetically Engineering Machine (iGEM) competition provides multidisciplinary teams of students with the opportunity to find solutions for global problems using synthetic biology. Students devise, design and build a living machine to tackle medical, sustainable, societal or industrial issues. For the eleventh time the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen will be participating in this contest with a diverse team of 11 members, all connected to the Faculty of Science and Engineering. For this reason we will do our best to succeed in the Giant Jamboree in Boston, US, to show the world what our university has to offer! Although we are active, motivated and resourceful, those assets alone will not be enough, as the importance and scale of our genetic engineering project require adequate funding. Thus, we would like to ask you to assist us in our endeavor to accomplish our goals. We would highly appreciate any contribution to support this year’s team!

For more information you can visit our wiki: https://2019.igem.org/Team:Groningen

 

You can contact Lieke van Iersel for more information

l.b.m.van.iersel@student.rug.nl 

or email iGEM: igem2019rug@gmail.com

I'm Mariano Perez and as an Industrial Engineer without any Biology background joining IGEM involved entering completely unexplored grounds. Luckily, with the help of our great team, I have now found different ways where I can apply my skill set, be it operating our laser cutting machine, using my organizational skills to lead the team as its student leader and make sure everybody is on track so we may achieve our goals. I see IGEM as an opportunity to apply my abilities as a coordinator, and my skills as a team player in a real-world scenario.

Hi, my name is Michelle Scharte and I am in the second half of my Masters in Biomolecular Sciences here at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. The second I learned about iGEM, I knew I had to join the group because I recognized this was the best opportunity to work on a scientific project organized only by us students. Organizing our experimental efforts as the lab manager for Groningen’s multidisciplinary and international team has shown me the importance of approaching issues from multiple angles, while also applying the knowledge and skills that I gained in the previous years of my education.

Hi everyone. I'm Yashika Venkatesh. At this point, I’m in the first year of Masters in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. My appreciation and acknowledgment for science and nature has been immense from a very young age. Over the years, I have been pursuing science for the intrinsic joy of discovery and invention. Biology, especially, has interested me since it was introduced as a part of our curriculum in secondary school. As the seed was sowed at a very young age, I could not think of any other career than in the field of Biotechnology. In the future, I hope to create an effectual technology which will add value to human life. To realize these dreams, I needed to broaden my horizons through training and guidance that is now afforded via iGEM. I aim to utilize the knowledge and training which I receive through iGEM to help me promote and develop tools and approaches in engineering biology. Currently, I'm involved with the laboratory work. Apart from academy, I have a great desire to travel. I'm a dancer and a sportsperson. I will be starting my internship in Singapore next January.

Hi, my name is Lieke van Iersel and I am in the last phase of finishing my bachelor Life Science & Technology. I'm a real team player so when I heard about iGEM being a group of students designing and working on a scientific project, I was sold. I love that so many parts of the iGEM project you can work on, which really broadens your horizon and makes you realize that research is not just labwork. I found my place in the Wet lab and the outreach team, which I am very happy about because I can learn a lot from working in the lab with bacteria and still organize and teach lessons about bacteria to kids.

Hi everyone! My name is Sophie Schretlen. At the moment I am finishing my bachelor's in Biomedical Sciences. Since I was only a child I already was interested in biology. For my birthdays I asked for tiny microscopes to investigate little insects , flowers and the famous onion peels. In addition to my biological interest the iGEM project provides opportunity to combine my scientific skills and interests with my non-scientific (communicational) skills. The freedom in this project to devise, design and build your own project from scratch, made me immediately excited for the iGEM competition. As the person co-responsible for the sponsoring, outreach and as being part of the wet lab, I hope to contribute to the different aspects our research is build on. 

Hello everyone! My name is Sander de Weerd. I'm currently halfway through my master Pharmaceutical Design and Engineering. Our iGEM team this year consist of a lot of interesting interdisciplinary people and i believe that we can do awesome things together when we challenge ourselves! With companies and governments trying to get their hands on personal data, data encryption has become increasingly important. In this years project we combine our forces to create a fun, recognizable and effective way to safely transfer important information. During my studies I've had several jobs that shared the same core concept: transferring information to people, and i loved it! Besides biological work, i'm responsible for outreach, so i can do what i love, and modelling, of which i know nothing yet but i'm kind of a nerd so we should be good.

My name is Dasha Vedernikova. I was in the middle of my 1st year of Master's in Medical and Pharmaceutical Drug Innovation when I decided to become a part of Groningen iGEM team. Mainly it happened because I love to challenge and expose myself to new experiences. Working on a project with people from very diverse backgrounds requires highly developed soft and hard skills, however, there is always room for improvement. I believe participating in iGEM competition is a great opportunity to learn a lot and contribute to the society.

Greetings from Transylvania. My name is Radu Cimpean, and I would be glad to share my experience of the iGEM project. I am of unknown age and despise garlic, plus my friends say my fangs are a bit bigger than they should be... What the poor mortals don't know by letting me join the team, is that I will bring my contributions in areas where invited... sorry, required. Mathematics is my field as it sucks up the fun, but for iGEM could be exactly the opposite. Programming skills would also be put to good use, and where needed the travel plan will be taken care of by me (as long as I can stay away from daylight). 

Namaste!! Greetings from India. My name is Geet Kalsulkar and I’m doing my Masters in Physics (Quantum Universe). Just here to learn about biology work in interdisciplinary project and have fun while doing it. It’s a great platform to work in one of the most diverse interdisciplinary team and come up with something amazing. Even though a physicist I find my fabrication skills and creativity to be put to a good use along with what you expect from a physicist.