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Students develop biosensor for engineering competition

A team of Carnegie Mellon undergraduates have developed a biosensor that can be used to monitor cell activities.

The team developed its sensor for the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition, which focuses on synthetic biology. Competing teams were given a toolkit of biological building blocks and were then asked to design and build a synthetic biological system using their knowledge of fundamental biology.

Carnegie Mellon’s team developed a biosensor using a fluorogen-activating RNA sequence and a fluorogen-activating protein that glows brighter in response to cellular activities like transcription and translation. Then, using a mathematical model, the students were able to analyze the results and determine the efficiency of several promoters in bacteria.

The Carnegie Mellon team consists of junior chemical engineering and biomedical engineering double major Yang Choo; sophomore and senior electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering majors Peter Wei and Jesse Salazar, respectively; and sophomore biological sciences major Eric Pederson. The instructors are Cheemeng Tan, a postdoctoral fellow in the Ray and Stephanie Lane Center for Computational Biology, and Natasa Miskov-Zivanov, an adjunct professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering.

SCS to offer robotics as new undergraduate major

In addition to the undergraduate courses it already offers, the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute is now offering an additional major in robotics. The additional major is available for all students, particularly those with technical majors such as computer science or electrical and computer engineering.

Matt Mason, the director of the Robotics Institute, said in a university press release, “The Robotics Institute always has been at the forefront, not only of robotic technology, but of the education of roboticists.”

“We created the first Ph.D. and master’s degree programs and the first undergraduate minor in robotics. Undergraduates already are an important part of the institute, working side by side with our researchers on some of our most exciting projects. Providing the option of robotics as an additional major just seems like the natural next step,” he said.

The program will focus on robotic control systems, movement, machine perception, systems engineering, and cognition and reasoning, with hands-on courses on designing, building, and programming robots.
It is suggested that current students who wish to pursue the additional major apply to the program by Feb. 1 of their first year, although it is possible for sophomores to apply as well.