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The Project Background Design Parts Submitted to the Registry Notebook The Team Outreach & Human Practices


Team Description

The Cornell Genetically Engineered Machines team (CU GEM) is a multidisciplinary team of undergraduates, with members from the College of Engineering, Agriculture & Life Sciences, and Arts & Sciences.

We are grateful for support from the College of Engineering, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Weill Institute.


Dr. Xiling Shen


Dr. Xiling Shen has been an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University since August, 2009. He received his BS and MS degree from the Electrical Engineering Department of Stanford University in 2001, and has performed post doctorate work at the University of California, Berkeley in systems and synthetic biology.

Dr. Matthew DeLisa


Dr. Matthew DeLisa is an Associate Professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His research focuses on the integration of engineering principles with protein biochemistry, microbiology and modern biotechnology. Professor DeLisa has received many awards for both teaching and research, and has recently been recognized as a Sloan Foundation Faculty Fellow and received the Cornell Provost’s Award for Distinguished Scholarship.

Dr. Pengcheng Bu


Dr. Pengcheng Bu is a postdoctoral associate in the Cornell University School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. His work under Professor Xiling Shen focuses on systems and synthetic biology. He received his PhD from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Biophysics, and has also performed post doctorate work under Dr. Lin He at the University of California, Berkeley investigating the function of microRNA in cancer development.


Bernard “Big Ben” Cammarata

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Originating from the small town of Southborough, Massachusetts, Ben always had big things on his mind. Like real big. Cornell big. After being accepted into Cornell in 2007 (he is currently a senior BEE major), Ben set his sights on curing all the world’s problems. How did he plan on doing this? Well, establishing a universal dictatorship solely under his control did not work out so well, so he decided to join the Cornell Genetically Engineered Machines team instead.

Alyssa “Adrenaline” Henning

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Alyssa, a senior Bioengineering major, was raised by penguins after she fell out of a boat. She graduated as a valedictorian from Bakersfield High School in California, where it never snows, and then found herself attending Cornell University, where it often snows, making her surrogate penguin parents quite happy. After making 3D movies of embryonic organogenesis via micro-CT (X-ray imaging) in Dr. Jonathan Butcher's lab and hanging out with the CU GEM team for almost three years, she has found that not everything can be reduced to black or white. (Cells can fluoresce in different colors.) When she is not in the lab, she enjoys playing her clarinet, hitting people with Kali Eskrima sticks, hitting even more people with Muay Thai boxing gloves and shin guards, and flying fiery, avian creations off of roofs of Engineering College buildings.

Malinka Walaliyadde


Malinka Walaliyadde was born in Sri Lanka but moved to the UAE when he was 6 months old and basically grew up there. He is currently a junior at Cornell University and is a confused Materials Science Engineering major who has an almost unhealthy interest in molecular biology. When he applied to the GEM team as a freshman, the team leader at the time was hesitant about taking him on because he couldn’t handle a pipette, let alone clone stuff. However his awesomeness shone through and he was let in, which was a good thing because he has continued to be awesome ever since.

Maneesh "The Mathemagical Beast" Gupta

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The brainchild of a Cornell mathematics student and the number 42, Maneesh is the result of the cross product between complex eigenvectors and the spherical coordinate system. Needless to say, Maneesh can only communicate to others by using Fourier Transforms. Being a beast of mathematics, Maneesh tested out of every single math class that was offered at Cornell. He then became the head of the Mathematics department, but was quickly fired after it was discovered that he was using Taylor series expansions on undergrads. When asked why he wanted to join the Cornell Genetically Engineered Machines team, he responded by solving the Schrödinger equation for E. Coli.

Deborah Liu

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Deborah is a sophomore Chemical Engineer from San Francisco, California. She’s usually described as "way too intense", but is working on being more amiable. If not working on problem sets or making/eating delicious food, she can always be found not getting enough sleep or correcting other people’s grammar.

Nancy Li


Nancy is best described through anecdote. We present to you the following:

1. She has invented the better mousetrap, armed with nothing more than a tennis racquet, a skipping rope, two orange cartons, a garbage bag and a piece of cheese. Not only is her contraption cheap, safe, and effective, it manages to consistently teleport the mouse a number of miles away, thus eliminating the mouse problem and utilizing technology years ahead of its time in one fell swoop.

2. She once went without sleep for 36 hours while remaining lucid enough to finish a 4000 word paper on the Anglo-Chinese War of 1839. Two days after this experience, she was forced to blow up 200 balloons for the Multicultural Show and then continued to host the three hour show without indicating any panic about the twelve exams that awaited her the following week. True story.

3. At age 19, she’s moved more than twenty times and attended more than twelve different schools in three different countries. Basically, she's about as versatile as the bacterial colony we affectionately dubbed 'Chloe' that she's posing with. We swear we don't let our LB grow rogue colonies on a regular basis.

What else is there to say?

Angela Pring-Mill


Angela is a Senior Animal Science major who enjoys peaceful evenings in the lab with the warm crackle of a Bunsen burner. She first learned how to use a pipette freshman year and has not been able to set one down since. She was born in Canada, raised in Florida, and spent high school in Oregon, but there is no better place than Ithaca, NY where the winters are everlasting and you get frostbite walking to class. Working with the CUGEM team has allowed Angela to overcome her intimidation of bioengineers and appreciate the scientific process, filled with all its stops and turns.

Jim Matthew


James Mathew is a sophomore Biological Engineering student at Cornell University interested in biomolecular and protein engineering. Besides enjoying long walks on the beach, James also prefers spending his extra time working on a device to detect infectious diseases using DNA-nanobarcodes in Dr. Dan Luo’s research laboratory, and organizing campus events for the Cornell Entrepreneur Organization. After moving to New York, James developed low iron levels from a sore lacking of good beef from his home state of Nebraska. He joined CUGEM for the cool stickers and stayed for the creative freedom to invent and explore the possibilities of synthetic biology.

Hyundo Reiner


Hyundo was born in a small town in the Republic of Sudan. At the age of two, he was found alone in his cradle by a wandering salesman after a group of local bandits had looted his home and frightened away the inhabitants. The salesman took him along his travels across Africa to the Ivory Coast, where recent newlyweds and avid travelers Robert and Dorothy took custody of him and smuggled him back into the States. Although Hyundo regards himself as an American, he will usually speak in Sudanese while his interpreter translates.

Virginia Li


Virginia is an Ohioan by birth, a Cornellian by reputation, and a free spirit by inclination. She joined CUGEM after university administrators removed Introductory Potions from the course roster under the premise that “magic is not real”. With a dash of synthetic biology and a twirl of her wand (known affectionately as Pipette), she is determined to disprove their argument and restore the legitimacy of magical studies in academia.

Revanth Baddam


Born to vampire parents, Revanth Baddam can trace his family ancestry back to Count Dracula himself. During high school he developed a severe Vitamin D deficiency due to his nocturnal habits. He enrolled at Cornell partly due to the austere dark winters where he can walk the grounds at noon. Currently a junior in Biological Engineering, he has attempted to find a solution to his severe Vitamin D deficiency and has joined iGEM to help him in his quest to aid other vampires with similar conditions.

Archana Rachakonda


Archana is a junior majoring in Bioengineering. Though now a resident of Princeton, NJ, she comes from a humble background of grain farmers, doctors, and Kung Fu masters. Together, they instilled in her a great appreciation of raptors on hoverboards and lolcats. Archana traveled back in time and created DNA (dangerously nascent abacus), but unfortunately, an incompetent History intern misspelled both her discovery and name. Nowadays, she can be found in the Sacred Realm or, at night, in the shadows of Duffield Hall. She joined CUGEM last year as a spy for the Harvard team, but defected when she realized how much better Cornell is. She eagerly awaits the day when she’ll receive a CUGEM t-shirt.

Albert Li


My name is Albert Li. I have a passion for the extraordinary. Four words: corn maze laser tag. That is my dream. Glorious. Absolutely glorious. It's very relevant to biology too. Imagine this. Genetically altered corn that grows angularly or shrinks when approached by heat. An interactive corn maze. Just brilliant. Being an electrical engineer in a synthetic biology team is rather interesting. You tend to find many similarities. DNA nucleotides - bits and bytes. Ion channels or operon pathways - transistors or logic gates. My giant and inadequate brain - a lightbulb that never seems to turn on during team meetings and brainstorming sessions. Its been quite an experience. The realm of the biolab is both diabolically frustrating and teasingly rewarding. It will be cool to see whether what I've learned applies to my future or not. I can't make any accurate predictions, but for now it's just four words.

Katy Sadowski


Katy Sadowski is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell. She is a Biology major with a minor in Animal Science and is a member of Cornell’s polo team. Katy is from Shaker Heights, Ohio.