AUSTIN (KXAN) — A team of undergraduate students from the University of Texas at Austin won several awards at the international iGEM “Grand Jamboree” last week and were the only U.S.-based team to place in the top ten for the overall competition.

The team won in the foundational advance category and were finalists for best part collection (created a large amount of DNA sequences) and best presentation.

You can view the team’s 2022 iGEM presentation here.

Dennis Mishler, assistant professor of practice at UT Austin, said the team was thrilled by their accomplishments. The team was not able to attend the Paris event in person due to cost.

“So all the other American teams, not as good as the team from Austin, right? That was a really big point of pride for them,” Mishler said. “UT Austin, of course the sports we’re really good in, but in academics we don’t always necessarily highlight our great accomplishments.”

The research focused on Austin’s bat population and the danger it faces from “White Nose Syndrome,” a fungal disease that spreads and kills bats quickly. The team identified a new method of detecting the disease; previous tools take a “relatively long time.”

“We’d have to work with some professionals to get that to work. But they demonstrated that in principle, it should work, but they have to do the actual experiments and see if it works,” Mishler said.

Mishler described the research as “novel” and suggests that the research may make its way to a peer-reviewed journal. Some of the students on the team had never done research in this capacity, Mishler said.

The research may even have a local impact, pending assistance from city and state officials.

“One thing that they remarked on was how cool it was to realize that they were actually advancing the field of research with their organisms,” Mishler said. “Some of these students were working 30-40 hours a week during the last month of the competition. The night or two before deadlines, they were doing all-nighters outside my office. They put in a lot of effort, and they got recognized for that.”