Kyle Lierer and first-ever Miami iGEM team win gold in annual competition

Kyle Lierer is a senior majoring in Computer Science at Miami University and recently helped Miami’s first-ever iGEM team, CROP, win a gold medal and be one of four teams nominated for two special awards. 

iGEMThe iGEM foundation is a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to the advancement of synthetic biology, education and competition and holds an annual International Genetically Engineered Machine competition to give students the opportunity to tackle everyday issues facing the world through the use of synthetic biology.

Lierer’s contribution to the success of his team included serving as the lead web developer and the lead graphic designer. As the only computer scientist on the team, he mainly focused on building the wiki and the tools that helped in the development and deployment process of the site on the MediaWiki server. Lierer also provided the tech support that required a higher-level of understanding, such as equipping infrastructure to run high-cost algorithms on. “I like to approach computer science with an interdisciplinary mindset.” Lierer said when asked how he comprehends the information thrown his way.

The skills used for this project weren’t learned in the classroom for Lierer. However, he learned graphic design skills from IMS and said that computer science allowed him to build a dynamic website and build tools to assist in developing websites, approaching this challenge like any other computer science project. He also used tools to speed up the process and learned how to approach a project from his experience in the computer science program.

Lierer’s biggest challenge that we had to face was the change in requirements. He thought he was just building a website, but he was left to using Media Wiki, which he called “a headache to work with.” Luckily for Lierer, he had an internship with GE Innovation that used Media Wiki, which gave him some experience with the software. Lierer also struggled with being the only team member with a graphic design background, so he had to make sure both the final project video and the website was finished in time. 

While on this team, Lierer used programming languages such as Python, used GitHub actions extensively and used the entire Adobe suite for graphic design and video editing. He also had to make the website accessible and make sure it’s accessible for older computers and technologies.

This was not Lierer’s first project, as he is a part of the Lockheed Martin Institute and worked on a project called Envision 2040, serving as the lead web design for the website. Lierer is a part of the Lockheed Martin Institute His work with the iGEM team has taught him how to approach a project involving a lot of people and how to balance both school work and the project.

Written by Gabby Benedict, CEC Reporter, and Kelton French