Education & Public Engagement
Beyond the lab, iGEM is a synthetic biology competition whose one major goal is to spread all around the world creativity and engineering possibilities that biology can offer to address and solve current problems. Education and public engagement embodies this policy and encouraging us to share this knowledge to people by teaching, exchanging and engaging. Boundaries exist between scientists and people who often do not understand each other. Scientific mediation through education and public engagement is the best way to raise awareness and get close to people. That is what we tried to accomplish through different speeches and contributions.
Microorganism Awareness: Make Bacteria Great Again
Given that our project was based on bioproduction by microorganisms, we considered the microorganisms reputation in society. Often associated with disease because of pathogenic bacteria, microorganisms have a pretty bad reputation in France. Ensuring people that our project is safe is a base of Human Practices, so to provide a project that will reach people, we needed to prove that our work in lab was responsible as much as its components. To observe people opinon and to inform them about microorganism’s diversity and utility, we conducted a survey explaining our project and the possibilities of using microorganism for bioproduction (click here to see the survey). Moreover, Giovanna Pinaud, a student in scientific journalism, wrote a report on our relationship with microorganisms through History and their reality. She also presented our project and opened a discussion about the dangers of sugar and the need for prevention in sugar-related diseases, introducing Psicose (find the report here).
The Diabetes LAB
Still in our will to promote prevention around such diseases, our collaboration with the French Federation of Diabetics (FFD) led to our integration to the Diabete Lab. As we presented it in our integrated human practices, the Diabetes Lab is a community structure whose the purpose is to gather Diabetes stakeholders with diabetic people to provide better tools and applications to ease diabetics everyday life. Our integration with the organisation was very satisfying because it meant that the FFD considered our project and saw a possible application in Diabetes prevention. We will therefore work in sessions with the organisation meeting with diabetics and specialists to bring our will and energy to the fight against Diabetes.
High School and Conferences
One experience that we particularly enjoyed was the supervision of students during the practical course in microbiology with iGEM UPMC (See our Collaborations page). They invited us to participate in the framing of practical work in a scientific course in Montrouge High School in Paris. They have developed protocols in order to explain the genotype/phenotype relation to students through mutagenesis in yeast in two different sessions. We used a yeast strain called Saccharomyces cerevisiae Ade2- which accumulates a metabolite that turns red because of oxidation giving the yeast its red color. Supported by UV mutagenesis, this toxic compound causes mutations of the mitochondrial oxidative chain reversing the yeast color back to white. Through this experiment, we introduced the students to the possibilities of bio-engineering and synthetic biology through the iGEM competition. Becoming a teacher after years of studies and sharing knowledge was very rewarding to us. It is an accomplishment to be recognized as a qualified person to assume the responsibility for school courses. Students really enjoyed our teaching methods and the exchange was amazing. They enjoyed meeting older students because the context is different from standard classes. The proximity with us allowed them to communicate and ask many questions around fields of study in biology and jobs.
National Contest of Scientific Mediation of AFNEUS
AFNEUS is the French acronym for the National Federation of Science Students. This federation aims to develop interest around Science through scientific communities in Universities and to build a synergy across the country. It represents Science Students officially and contributes politically to the improvement of student’s life. AFNEUS accompanies them in their formation proposing events and conferences around Science to promote knowledge.
The federation launched the first edition of a competition called the National Contest of Scientific Mediation organised with the French National Institute of Research (CNRS) and other personalities of science communication. Several associations of the federation at the national scale participated and among them us from iGEM Evry Paris-Saclay. Each association was represented by one member through several preliminary phases to reach the final contest in a congress at Nantes, France. Each participant had 8 minutes to present in front of a jury a subject chosen at random among several field such as Biology, Mathematics, Chemistry, etc. Our head of human practices, Yanis, represented the team in this contest. He was given the subject of the Earth Atmosphere. He successfully described its characteristics and functions concluding about the importance of its preservation for human sake. He reached the finals and finished 2nd after a tight battle and a long deliberation according to the jury composed of scientific journalists, scientists and teachers. This event was recognized by professionals and launched a dynamic around democratization Popular Science in France and will be reconducted for the second edition next year.
Science Discovery Day
EvryBiody is the association of Biology students in the University of Evry. It organises events in the University like the graduation ceremony, prom, or scientific events. In this dynamic of promoting science in our territory, we organised with them the Science Discovery Day in the “Parc des Coquibus” in Evry. We proposed interesting experiments to initiate children to Science and scientific communication for adults. We also introduced the iGEM competition and our project. A concert closed the day allowing us to enjoy this open event and to get close to people thanks to Biology. It was an exchange between Students and people interested in Biology that led to very interesting conversation and maybe a future vocation in synthetic biology.
Film Maker in Biology
To go further into communication with people through the competition, we introduced a team of filmmaker to produce a movie around the Psicose. We worked alongside to wrote a scenario to promote our sugar allowance in France playing with the fact that Psicose, a sugar with kind properties, wasn't allowed yet in the market whereas a dangerous sugar, saccharose, was. See their incredible work on the video below:
Real places of emulation around sciences, The Biolab is a bio-hackerplace type structures allowing exchanges between enthusiasts, amateurs and professionals to transcend the existing barriers between the population and the highly specialized circle of scientists through scientific mediation. Meetings between these different stakeholders are intended to inform the public about the current practice and the challenges of research and allow mutual exchange and discussions in return for scientists to be supported in their work. Historically born in the MIT, hackerplaces are structures that push people to do things by themselves, a policy that we wanted to develop in our territory in France. This territorial and intellectual cohesion can ultimately lead to the emergence of vocations and interests for the professions of science.