One of CSU’s newest clubs, BIOMOD, gains international exposure at annual competition

BIOMOD student team

The CSU BIOMOD team at the 2017 competition in San Francisco. Back row, from left: Noah Beck, Abby Ward, Vincent Braud, Ramsey Smith. Front row, from left: Yaya Fan, Emily Ng, Sheridon Kelly, Professor Chris Snow, Sehoo Park, Zeus Alcon.

Colorado’s first and only BIOMOD team is at Colorado State University and preparing for their second competition this fall at the University of California – San Francisco.

BIOMOD is an international biomolecular design competition featuring nanostructured molecules and molecular assemblies, crafted by students in various STEM majors. Professor Christopher Snow of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering established CSU’s team last year. “My goal is to motivate undergraduate participation in laboratory and computational research,” Snow said.

Last year, CSU’s BIOMOD team presented their project at the BIOMOD Jamboree, an international stage where they were exposed to new technologies, and inspired by fellow scientists in the biomolecular engineering field. “BIOMOD is a wonderful networking experience. I met amazing people from across the world with similar interests. I learned about incredible research efforts that I couldn’t have learned somewhere else,” said CSU BIOMOD president, Ramsey Smith.

Last year’s project entailed re-engineering DNA protein complexes capable of self-assembly into precisely ordered crystals. The team was up against a number of well-established teams from around the globe; however, the CSU team still ranked in the Silver Tier. The long-term goal is to engineer a 3-, porous, scaffold crystal capable of organizing guest molecules with unprecedented sub-nanometer precision. Ultimately, these new types of materials could provide a new, more rapid route to observe the structure of DNA-binding proteins in atomic detail. To explain their project, the group used Lego blocks to illustrate the enhancements they made to building blocks composed of DNA:

View the team’s explainer video.

This year’s project is a related effort to re-engineer biomolecular crystals. Specifically, the team is using molecular design tools to rationally fuse together small DNA building blocks that are individually capable of self-assembly into a crystal. The resulting, “super-blocks” may form the designed crystals with enhanced speed and stability.

Along with being judged on concept and design, the group is tasked with communicating their design effectively to a scientific audience. Awards are also given based on the quality of communications objectives such as website content and design, video demonstrations, and interactive presentations.

In the future, CSU’s BIOMOD team looks forward to initiating fundraising efforts, outreach events, and additional conference opportunities. To support CSU’s BIOMOD club and to keep up with new developments, visit their website: