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PhD candidate from Leiden presents international student event

From pipetting in the lab to shining in front of the camera at a global student event. With 8.000 viewers watching the livestream, Marjolein Crooijmans presented the iGEM Giant Jamboree in Paris.

The ten-day iGEM Giant Jamboree is the big finale of iGEM, a student competition for inventing groundbreaking projects in synthetic biology. This year, 250 university teams participated. Unfortunately, instead of bringing all participants together during the Jamboree, the event took place online for the second year in a row. 

Super awesome

Crooijmans was one of for presenters of the digital finale. Because of that, her research at the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL) on the effect of antibiotics on the cell wall of bacteria was put temporarily on hold. 
‘Super awesome,’ is how the PhD’er describes her adventure. ‘We recorded the finale in the headquarters of iGEM in Paris. An inspiring place, also because I finally got to meet the core of iGEM in person. And presenting was quite the adventure too, and recording several small videos around the main event was as well.’

Teaser: the trophies are in Paris

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After the big win of Leiden biologists last year, Crooijmans also was responsible to get the challenge cup back to Paris. The BioBrick trophy – that had decorated the Sylvius entrance for months – travelled with her by train, to be then handed over to this year's winners, the University of Marburg. 

The face of iGEM

Together with other presenters from Mexico, India and Brazil, Crooijmans became the face of iGEM 2021. ‘You don’t notice it, because the event is online. You announce the winners without seeing the reactions of the teams. That is too bad,’ she remarks. Only a few teams were invited to Paris to watch the Jamboree in separate rooms, such as the winning Leiden group. ‘In this way, we could still look around the corner and see the reaction and enthusiasm from the public.’


Crooijmans looks back with great pleasure on the tough weeks. ‘Everything looks very professional for our viewers, but behind the camera, it were long days and now and then it was fairly chaotic. Of course, often we would have a good laugh too, with a lot of blooper-moments. And those then appeared on social media too,’ she laughs. Those can be found on iGEM headquarter's TikTok page.

She hopes that next year the event will be as amazing as before the pandemic. Still, she would like to be the presenter again. Crooijmans: ‘I took care to promote Universiteit Leiden, as I mentioned the university at least 100 times during those days. I would like to have that opportunity, but then with a cheering audience. 

The iGEM team in Paris
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