Human Practices- Silver
Our aim of this subproject was to create a way to bring the idea and fundamental approaches of synthetic biology closer to people who are yet un- or misinformed. We believe that synthetic biology will affect the lives of every future generation so we feel obliged to elucidate and reach out to the broad mass of society. To achieve this, we elaborated a simple and fun way to put across a challenging scientific subject, introducing the Plasmid Factory.
Plasmid Factory is a card game which can be played with up to 4 people. The winner is the person who is first able to create a fully working plasmid with the cards on his hands. Additionally to collecting the right parts, the player needs to fulfill the tasks on his phasecard. We chose regular sized playing cards for our game since we all love playing cards and it is easy to relate to. While playing, attendants learn about the importance of each part and that only a plasmid with all relevant parts can function and express its genes. A detailed instruction of the rules can be found here: plasmid factory rules.
The design of the parts was inspired by the work of Dueber et al. (2015)
Since our approach was to reach out to a large number of people from all over the world, we did not only print out a high circulation but also created a free PDF version, which can be downloaded here: Download guide// Download cards 1 to 40// Download cards 41 to 80
Expanding the german curriculum for biology
As a recent field of research, synthetic biology has only been established in german schools since 2015. As a part of our outreach we created a toolbox of resources helping teachers to integrate this topic in their classes. We believe that it is crucial to do so because synthetic biology is -as we all know- a fast growing and influential research area. It can be difficult to keep track of innovations and be able to convey them to the students.
Our first approach included an introduction to the basic methods and goals of synthetic biology. Subsequently the students worked in groups discussing about global problems to develop different approaches for solving them with synthetic biology. Furthermore we wanted to draw attention to ethical aspects and safety requirements. We were excited that the students came up with a lot of well reasoned ideas regarding the discussed topics.
After analyzing the surveys conducted during the first few school lessons it became clear that one aspect in our concept was still missing. The pupils craved to know more about how exactly the design of the labwork within iGEM takes place. They had heard a lot about the principles of synthetic biology and were longing for detailed information. So we decided to design a second lesson covering this specific aspect. How better to explain this than to use our own project and let the pupils themselves refeel the inspiring process of planning it?
Of course, we simplified the process of finding a suitable topic, as it took us several months to fully come up with and plan our topic. We prepared Index cards with all the required information at an understandable level. Each of our subteams processed their most important paper sections and graphs along with vocabulary help. Included is the possibility to learn about the implementation of a new pathway in a compartment, the nootkatone and violacein pathways, optogenetics and other exemplary topics. An essential part is the flashcard about the scientific background information: peroxisomes and their import machinery.
We are convinced that this lesson concept provides the pupils with a deep understanding of project planning routines and all the processes needed for a successful iGEM year. They develop the ability to work together as a group and communicate about complex topics. Furthermore they consolidate their knowledge about synthetic biology from the first lesson.
We had the possibility to skype with Kerstin Göprich, who is the founder of “ring-a-scientist.org”, a platform that brings together students and scientists. Skype is a great medium for connecting those groups. The students can witness experiments which could never be performed in their classrooms and get “first-hand information about studying science at a university” ring-a-scientist.org. Kerstin Göprich, herself a young scientist, believes that it is very important to inspire the next generation of scientists. On the other hand there is always the issue of the lack of time. “Ring-a-scientist.org” solves this problem in a gorgeous way.
Kerstin was very happy when we offered to try her concept and supported us by sending her evaluation questions. We completed our school lectures with skype-calls directly into our lab. Marvin and Jan explained the concepts of plasmid-design with geneious and showed the evaluation of a gel electrophoresis in real time. We experienced enthusiastic students, thankful to see it up close.
Karl von Frisch award ceremony
On the 29th June we were invited to give a presentation to pupils at the Karl-von-Frisch-award ceremony. The Karl-von-Frisch-prize was awarded by vBio (a german biology association) to high-school students with outstanding performance in biology. The ceremony was held in the Max Planck Institute in Dortmund. To inform the pupils about different job and research opportunities in sciences, Dr. Johann Jarzombek held a talk about the research in the Max Planck Institute in Dortmund and Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Peter Proksch from our university in Duesseldorf talked about drugs from the ocean. Following some researchers from the Max Planck Institute offered guided tours through some institutes. We used this event to convince people to study science and of course to be part of a future iGEM team. One of the pupils is now studying biochemistry in Duesseldorf.
On the 13th of July we had the opportunity to present iGEM and our project in the university’s radio. During the interview with the radio moderator, we explained our idea about producingnootkatone, an environment friendly mosquito repellent, in an artificial compartment.
By talking about our project we wanted to inform the listeners about synthetic biology and its opportunities.
Jülich Biotech Day
On the 28th and 29th of September, the “Forschungszentrum Jülich” celebrated 40 years of biotechnology within the research centre.
We felt very honored to be invited to join this celebration and present our project at a stand outside the lecture hall. Besides us, iGEM Team Aachen attended this event as both of our universities are involved in the research centre.This gave us the opportunity to further promote iGEM within the community of researchers working in this field. A lot of people showed interest in our project and we had some interesting discussions. Furthermore we listened to talks from Sang Yup Lee (KAIST, Republic of Korea) and Frances Arnold (California Institute of Technology, USA) about systems metabolic engineering and bringing new chemistry to life by evolution. Additionally we attended talks held by former members of the Institute about their recent work as well as their work in the “Forschungszentrum Jülich”.
We were very thankful that we got the opportunity to be there along with the iGEM Team Aachen and enjoyed both days.