Alumna helps grow synthetic biology interest across Africa as new IGEM ambassador

May 28, 2020
The International Genetically Engineered Machine Foundation (IGEM) has selected Ashesi alumna Nana Oye Djan ’19 as IGEM Ambassador for the 2020 cohort.

As one of two ambassadors selected from the African continent, Nana Oye will over the next year, work through IGEM workshops and speaking engagements to promote the proliferation of synthetic biology, while also helping form and mentor new teams across the continent. She will also help connect IGEM alumni from all over the world.

Started in 2003 as a competitive platform to help undergraduates build solutions to global and social challenges using synthetic biology, today, IGEM supports over 40,000 members in over 45 countries to help push the frontiers of synthetic biology in high schools and universities.

“Being a part of this team brings me steps closer to joining the global force in solving community problems using synthetic biology,” shared Nana Oye. “And I am glad I get to do this for Ghana and Africa.”

Nana Oye’s first brush with IGEM came in 2017 when she was part of Ashesi’s award-winning team at the annual IGEM competition. Using a process called bio-mining, her team explored ways the Ghanaian mining industry could adopt environmentally friendly mining practices. They did this using a process called bio-mining, to genetically engineer an organism capable of sensing, liberating, and quantifying the amount of gold from the refractory ore.

Long before this, however, she had been exploring ways she could build knowledge in synthetic biology. “Growing up, I wanted to pursue genetic engineering to help create a cure for HIV,” said Nana Oye ’19, who was a Tullow Scholarship recipient and read Mechanical Engineering at Ashesi. “So when I first heard about iGEM, I figured it would be a great avenue to explore my passion for genetic engineering.”

Nana Oye, who currently works as a faculty intern at Ashesi University, has, in the past three years, contributed to the spreading of the use of synthetic biology in solving problems in Ghana. She currently assists Ashesi Senior lecturer, Dr. Elena Rosca in teaching Ashesi’s very first synthetic biology class, and was on the editorial team for the Ashesi’s part of the publishing the team who put together the first edition of the Ashesi SEED journal.

“I am always thankful to God for the opportunity to have had an Ashesi education,” Nana Oye shared. “Even though I had to deal with several fails and disappointments along the way, I still managed to pick myself up again, dust off the pain, and try again. It is with this same attitude that I hope to help promote synthetic biology across the continent.”


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