We’ve done a lot of practices in Engagement, including field investigation, education, consulting and special work.
For the purpose of sparking new scientific curiosity and establishing a public dialogue about synthetic biology outside the lab. We supported education of science at Elementary School; set up an Academic Salon; gave a lecture of our project introduction to students and held a biological competitive game“Running Bio-man”.
In field investigation, we went to pesticides plant and made a survey among the peasants to know pesticides situation. Meanwhile, through conferences and communications, we got useful feedback to improve our project design.
Notablely, we did a special work to reflect the situation and problems of iGEM teams in China.
For the purpose of grasping current market conditions of pesticides, we visited Xinghua industry, a manufacturing plant dedicated to producing agricultural fertilizer, pesticides and some other industrial chemicals. We consulted the agricultural service bureau in Wugong district and the pesticide dealer in Chengguan district and obtained precious information like the application range, price and sales of agricultural pesticides as well as the local weeds distribution.
Investigation of the current situation in fertilizer plant
Nowadays, Herbicides can be used not only for crops, but also for weeding the lawn in horticulture.
For the purpose of investigating current market conditions of pesticides, we visited Xinghua industry, a manufacturing plant dedicated to producing agricultural fertilizer, pesticides and some other industrial chemicals.
As is widely acknowledged that glyphosate is the most common-used pesticides at present in China, which is recognized as a product with good effect, low cost and less harm. But contaminant such as ammonia will be created in productive process. Also, glyphosate has a strong pungent odor which is still strong after being diluted 30 times. And when it contacts with skin, it can easily cause skin allergic redness and swelling during the spraying.
We also consulted the agricultural service bureau in Wugong and the pesticide dealer in Chengguan. Therefore, we have obtained precious information about the application range, price and sales of agricultural herbicides as well as the local weeds distribution
Setaria viridis are most widely distributed which posses a fairly short growth cycle and the largest occupation in the cropland.
Meanwhile, we have bought some herbicides and have studied how to use them through hands-on experience.
On October 5th to 7th, to gain some physical experience of how farmers diligently do farming, to set better modeling for the weeds distribution in the field, and to obtain some inspirations for our project and our design, we have acknowledged the current condition of most farmers and their farming lands as well as how they use those common pesticides like glysphosate through the field investigation. The field investigation was conducted by one of team members through face-to-face interviews with most peasants and personal experience of utilizing pesticides and fertilizers.
As our project is primarily designed a novel pesticide instead of the chemical ones to better peasants’ farming environment and their farming experience, and gradually improve the overall Chinese natural environment, it is rather necessary for us to know farmers’ farming strategy in detail, such as how they get rid of those annoying weeds, how they apply fertilizers and pesticides to plants. To make the best effect, our team member has successfully borrowed those farming equipment from one farmer temporarily and truly felt that there were still a lot of work we can do to make it a better place for peasants.
1. During the field investigation, our team member have found that some weeds could still grow somewhere in the farming lands although there had already been applied chemical herbicide in the first place. To get rid of those newly-grown weeds, farmers couldn’t spray glysphosate any more in that glysphosate is a kind of nonselective herbicide which might kill other crops. Therefore, farmers needed to pull up weeds by themselves. The period is rather time-costing and labor-costing. To help farmers improve their farming environment, we possess a strong desire to design a bio-herbicide with higher selectivity so that they can apply herbicides whenever they need to.
2. When our team member did field investigation, most farmers were still utilizing their own simple plastic device to spray herbicide on the farming land. Simply, there are two disadvantages brought by this method. Firstly, this method is extremely inefficient for application of herbicide, because the limited strength of senior farmers. Secondly, this kind of method may lead to the uneven application of herbicide, therefore, in some area where the herbicide concentration is rather low, there may still grow many weeds. Meanwhile, in the area where the herbicide concentration is high, it may result in compaction of the soil and unforeseeable damage to plants which will be grown on the same region in the future. So in our device designing period, we have taken this into consideration so that we have projected a novel device which can supply our bio-herbicide directly to roots of our plants so that no bio-herbicide will be spoiled, and the distribution of it is rather even.
survey \( \longrightarrow \) model
One of our modeling is set to estimate the amount of weeds in a certain region and weeds’ distribution. To fit most closely to the reality, before we started modeling, our team member had conducted the field survey to acknowledge the mean number of weeds in a certain area. By making several quadrats in the field, our team member count weeds in every quadrat to obtain the first-hand information. And these data is incorporated into our modeling through our chosen method and formula.
We supported education of science at Wencheng Elementary School in countryside where is hardly available to fine education resource.
In addition, we have tutored them in many little tips on how to protect the environment. We tried to offer a course for the next generation, because they are the future of all human beings and they have the potential to make the world a better place and avoid damaging the world. And they might pass these precious perspectives to their next generations.
Environmental Education At WenCheng Elementary School
In the early days, our hometown was painted as the magnificent landscape where birds were twittering and flower were bathed in gentle sunlight. However, in order to reap staggering profits, large amounts of trees have been cut down as endangered animals have been hunted, thus the large-scale deforestation and imbalance in ecologic environment are leading to the tragic outcome that vast range of grassland is being intruded by desert, that harmony landscape is being substituted by boundless scatter of sands.
Having witnessed the depressing situation, rather than being a spectator passing by with nothing to do, we devise this project on the basis of what we have gained and our imagination to appeal to more citizens to protect the environment as it is time that we should do something to control the desertification.
In April 18th, 2017, we launch an environmental education at Wencheng Elementary School in Yuzhong County, Lanzhou City, Gansu Province. We have illustrated the harm caused by desertification. In addition, we have tutored them in many little tips on how to protect the environment. Furthermore, we led them to pick up many fallen leaves on the campus, utilizing which to blueprint their own spring with their imagination.
We cannot stop human beings from cutting down trees, but we can save every piece of paper.
We cannot stop human beings from hunting for rare animals, but we can refuse to purchase ivory and to wear marten coats.
We cannot stop human beings from littering and discarding batteries, but we can sort wastes around us, make full use of them and even make them profitable again.
We cannot stop human beings from wasting water resources, but we can turn off faucets whenever we have washed our hands.
We cannot stop all uncivilized behaviors, but we can make a change from who are close to us, from where we live, meanwhile sparing no effort in assisting others to establish awareness to protect the environment, thus making some contributions to protecting our planet.
Environmental protection could be simply defined as “working at present, reaping for centuries.”
We hope that all efforts we have made could make the world a better place.
We held an Academic Salon in the theme of “Synthetic Biology & Medical Sciences” to spread the latest interdisciplinary researches in the undergraduate. Also, we recommended the iGEM competition and its development. This salon has received high praise from graduates, they greatly acknowledged the application of Synthetic in Medical Sciences and in other fields, expressed great enthusiasm towards Synthetic Biology and paid more attentions to iGEM competitions.
Academic Salon “Synthetic Biology & Medical Sciences”
In April 22nd , 10:00 A.M., Lanzhou iGEM team held an Academic Salon in the theme of “Synthetic Biology & Medical Sciences” in Lanzhou University together with graduate student association, School of Basic Medical Sciences at the meeting room on the second floor of Jingcheng Building. And graduates as well as many lovers of Synthetic Biology attended this salon. This salon has brought graduates with Synthetic Biology and spread the latest research in the combination of Synthetic Biology and Medical Sciences.
Having referred to many aspects of Synthetic Biology covering the development, experiment principles, application fields, and application on Medical Sciences, we primarily introduced the design and application of Synthetic Biology on synthesis of medicines, tumor detection and oncotherapy in this salon.
In terms of material productions, through the example of utilizing bacteria to synthesize clothes did we exhibit the miracle of Synthetic Biology and truly arouse graduates’ interests.
With regard to Medical Sciences, firstly, many previous results associated with Synthetic Biology on oncotherapy, medicine synthesis and tumor detection like the synthesis of artemisinin and opioid precursor.
Secondly, we have explained certain researches including.
1. CZECH Republic iGEM team’s project on the IOD band in the use of enabling early detection and mapping of tumor mobility with the application of Synthetic Biology
2. MIT’s project on utilizing Quorum Sensing and synthesis and lysis of bacteria to release drugs to kill tumor cells
3. the initiator of Synthetic Biology treating diabetes with artificial islet cells
4. the news that Nature Supplement has established 7 papers (4 from the domestic) on Synthetic Biology.
Lastly, we have recommended the iGEM competition and its development. This salon has received high praise from graduates, they greatly acknowledged the application of Synthetic in Medical Sciences and in other fields, expressed great enthusiasm towards Synthetic Biology and paid more attentions to iGEM competitions.
Actually this successful Academic Salon being spoken highly by graduates enabled us to truly understand how meaningful our project is.
And in purpose of appealing to more students paying a closer attention to the Synthetic Biology, in the sprint of teaching through lively activities, we held a biological competitive game “Running Bio-man”. During play and the competition, participants’ interests have been aroused and were willing to know about synthetic biology. Students both major in Biology and other subjects have broadened their horizons and experienced the charm of this novel subject – Synthetic Biology. Additionally, even some students major in liberal arts were truly amazed by the fantastic Biological world.
In April 23, 2017, in order to extend the publicity of Synthetic Biology and our iGEM project as well as to appeal to more population to pay a closer attention to the development of Synthetic Biology and biological method to desertification contro, Lanzhou iGem team in cooperation with the student union of Lanzhou University, the School of Life Science held a biological contest “Running Bio-man”.
We have drawn up both Written Test for preliminary contest and well-designed special games for the final. To make this contest be fairer for all participants, we have divided participants into two groups. One was for those who were major in Biology and another was for those who were not. Questions relating to Synthetic Biology were included in test papers for preliminary contest. During the fierce competition, participants’ interests in Synthetic Biology have been aroused. Students both major in Biology and other subjects have broadened their horizons and experienced the charm of this novel subject – Synthetic Biology.
Questions included in Written Test was extract from two sources, one of which is The Introduction To The Synthetic Biology, while another is those ingenious concepts found in those previous iGEM projects. Not only were those projects genuinely thought-provoking, but also participants’ ideas provided us with numerous inspirations.
The final was held outdoors including games that combine sports with knowledge such as “Embrace Biology”, “Biological Memory Match” and “Biological Jumping Puzzles” etc. These games enable more undergraduates to feel the enjoyment from attending this contest. Additionally, even some students major in liberal arts were truly amazed by the fantastic Biological world.
In the end, we awarded undergraduates prizes and certificates for their tremendous performance to appreciate all participants’ enthusiastic attendance, thus this contest was ended successfully.
To increase the acknowledgement of iGEM and Synthetic Biology in Lanzhou University, we gave a lecture to students in Cuiying Honors College (CHC). Because Cuiying Honors College students were participating in China’s Top-notch undergraduate training program, we hoped that we could get some inspirations from these best students. After the lecture, we exchanged our ideas with the audience so as to deepen their understanding on this novel subject, and obtained some inspirations or novel ideas from those audience. Except the lecture held by us, we led students of Cuiying Honors College to our laboratory since it is probable for them to learn the mechanisms of certain devices, to possess a personal impression of the laboratory work and to light their inner fire of affection to Biology.
A lecture of Synthetic Biology at Cuiying Honors College in Lanzhou Universtiy
To increase the acknowledgement of International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) and Synthetic Biology, we – Lanzhou iGEM team gave a lecture to students in Cuiying Honors College (CHC) in Lanzhou University at August 10th. For the most audience from CHC, their major was Biology, meanwhile, several students major in Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics attended our lecture as well.
As this probably was the first time for those students to get a general idea of Synthetic Biology and iGEM, we mainly attempt to clarify the concept starting from brief idea of Synthetic Biology to a specific iGEM idea and how it function as well as several fundamental notions of basic parts.
Therefore, our lecture can be divided into two sections. The first section included both a introduction of Synthetic Biology, iGEM, and our team. Simplified words and sentences over how Synthetic Biology born, revealed the genuinely tremendous landscape of science for the whole audience from the stuff they were continuously bustling with. With the click of mouse linked to slides, their attentions have been transferred from Lanzhou University to MIT where the annual iGEM Jamboree was held. Additionally, to enhance our audience’s interpretation of iGEM project, we described the project of our last year iGEM team which mainly focused on the disposition of the heavy metal in the aquatic environment. To gain the best effect, those elusive mechanisms were avoided but the essential core of idea was exhibited.
Afterwards, we turned our attention to the brief introduction of those fundamental parts in an iGEM team.
Choose the most proper species, especially those model organisms according to your design of project. If a novel method needed to be functioned in a prokaryotic cell, several bacteria such as E.coli and B.subtilis might be taken into consideration. While if you need a eukaryotic organism, you may need A. thaliana, S. cerevisiae or C. elegans.
Choose the most suitable promoter for your Biobrick according to your usage. From the website of part registry, you can find almost all the promotes you want including consistent promoter, inducible promoter and tissue-specific promoter.
Choose the most valuable genetics engineering method on the basis of how much money you will spend and the efficiency of this certain method.
Choose a screening method from those previously classical methods so that you can screen out those unwilling targets in shortest period of time.
After that, we exchanged our ideas with the audience so as to deepen their understanding on this novel subject, and obtained some inspirations or novel ideas from those audience.
Except the lecture held by us, we led students of Cuiying Honors College to our laboratory since it is probable for them to learn the mechanisms of certain devices, to possess a personal impression of the laboratory work and to light their inner fire of affection to Biology.
From April 14th to 16th, 2017, we attended the ONE BELT AND ROAD microbiome International Forum held in Lanzhou University. During the intermission of the forum, we communicated with Researcher Li Xiangzhen and Professor Shen Xihui. Both of them spoke highly of our novel project design, meanwhile they recommended us try to improve the stress-resistance of engineered bacteria, because E.coli are not suitable in living in drought environment. We took this into consideration in our later experiment design.
Lanzhou iGEM Team at ONE BELT AND ROAD Microbiome International Forum
From April 14th to 16th, 2017, the ONE BELT AND ROAD Microbiome International Forum was held in Lanzhou University, host by Institute of Microbiology, China Academy of Sciences and Chinese Society for Microbiology Environmental Microorganism Professional Council, organized by Lanzhou University, the School of Life Science, Ministry of Education Key Laboratory Cell Activities and Stress Adaptions and Gansu Key Laboratory of Biomonitoring and Bioremediation for Environmental Pollution. Several team members of Lanzhou iGEM team has attended lectures given by many scholars and additionally exchanged ideas with them.
This forum has enhanced our understanding and recognition of Microbiology and Synthetic Biology, thus expanding our ideas for blueprinting the project. During the intermission of the forum, we have discussed with Researcher Li Xiangzhen and Professor Shen Xihui on our project. Both of them spoke highly of our project design, considering our ideas as fully creative, meanwhile they provided us with their valuable advices according to our current project.
In addition, lectures given by other scholars also drew our attentions, hence we had several talks with these scholars on the basis of contents of their lectures as well.
On this forum, fifteen scholars and experts had introduced several Microbiome researches on Atmospheric Science, waters, soils, intestinal, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, thus we have reaped a lot during this forum. Not only have we collected large amounts of valuable advices and innovative ideas, but also we have witnessed the novel researches in the world of Microorganisms hoping that we would have a better view in Microbiology through our work in Synthetic Biology!
In the later stage, our project came to a deadlock, we were depressed and didn’t know how to take effective measures. Fortunately, at that time Professor Yamazaki from Hokkaido University were invited to lecture in Lanzhou University. So we were going to consult him for some inspirations.
He gave us some useful advice and encouraged us to move on, although finally we didn’t complete the verification, still really appreciated him.
Face-to-face discussion with Professor Yamazaki over our project
On August 14th, Professor Yamazaki from Hokkaido University who was a world-famous expert specialized in Synthetic Biology, an experienced judge in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM), and the head coach of Hokkaido_U iGEM team was invited by Cuiying Honors College in Lanzhou University. Since Hokkaido_U iGEM had already been a cooperating partner of Lanzhou iGEM team, we were intended to extend our coadjutant relationship with each other.
Professor Yamazaki was one of the Japanese pioneers in the field of Synthetic Biology, therefore, either from his lecture or his words we were able to notice his unparalleled passion in continuously figuring out novel methods to several certain obstacles.
In addition, lectures given by other scholars also drew our attentions, hence we had several talks with these scholars on the basis of contents of their lectures as well.
At that time, our project was coincidently facing a difficulty, and even started to doubt whether our design of these Bio-devices could actually work because of the uncertainty over the reliability of certain essential target gene. Thus, we were going to consult Professor Yamazaki so as to seek the possibility that he could shed a light for our harsh course of polishing our project. And through the discussion betwwen Professor Yamazaki and three team members of LLanzhou iGEM team, we mainly focused on four primary questions.
1. In that our team’s aim was to make a trial with utilizing the mechanism of RNA interference which is triggered by double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), considering the situation that we hadn’t yet extracted relatively pure dsRNA, professor Yamazaki suggested that we could contact several corporations to discover the opportunity to have the direct access to synthesized dsRNA so that we could demonstrate its function immediately thought it might be a cost of money.
2. Assuming that we had already figured out the first difficulty, we were going to face the next hard circumstance that we needed to prove that our method had successfully functioned and the expression of the target gene was turned down or even silenced in host plants (Arabidopsis thaliana). Therefore, professor Yamazaki advised us to obtain seeds of transgenic seeds of Arabidopsis thaliana forming a reporting system for our project.
3. Since we aimed to produce large amount of dsRNA through our engineered E.coli, we needed to think about a proper approach to extract dsRNA from relatively large amount of nucleotides in the bacteria. Although professor Yamazaki reminded us this method of great risk of failure, he still recommended us pluck out other non-relevantly influential factors, dsRNA.
4. Last but not least, one of delivery system of target gene was on the basis of higher plants’ ability to absorb dsRNA form the roots, so we are going to use synthesized dsRNA to inject or spread into target plants. Because the mechanism of absorption was unclarified, Professor Yamazaki suggested that we might need to find and collect large amount of literature relating to dsRNA.
Lastly both Lanzhou iGEM team and I were greatly grateful to professor Yamazaki's suggestions that genuinely provided us reliable strategy for the main part and downstream part. To further our partner relationship with Hokkaido_U, we exchange our contact information with each other, so that we could share our current problem and solve it together.
We investigated the current situation of Chinese iGEM teams.
The reason we conducted this special work was primarily originated from the hardships our team has experienced this year. During the preparation of our project, we have lost the financial support from our university that was provided in previous years. Besides, we have been deprived of the permission to the laboratory for the first two months which interrupted our schedule, put off our experiments.
So, based on this situation, we want to know whether there are other iGEM teams in China met the same difficulties like us. Through Video interviews, we had discussions with more than 15 Chinese iGEM teams. Unfortunately, we found that quiet a few teams were also struggling for their project , suffering various obstacles such as shortage in funds, lack in labor or without effective academic instruction...
Although we experienced great obstacles this year, we have never given up. We sincerely wish our experiences could not only inspire the future iGEM teams to go through their bad time but give some directions to solve possible difficulties they would meet.
Respondents’ positions in their teams vary. Some are leaders and some are in charge of Human Practice. Others are none of both.
The contents of this special work are primarily based on the discussion and consultation through the video-chat.
From September to October 2017, we have interviewed more than 15 Chinese iGEM teams. We grasped the basic information of their teams like the team scale, the ways for team construction and the problems they have met during the preparation for iGEM this year etc. Also, We shared our experiences during the whole process of preparing our iGEM project with them.
Some examples, with Chongqing University, we shared the way of our team labor division and the training methods for cultivating new and qualified team members. Additionally, we introduced how to raise money from crowd-funding to them. With Xiamen University, we shared our three-round selections during the team construction.
Conclusion & Guide
In general, the team members of Chinese iGEM team are 15 to 20. Meanwhile, all team leaders and key members are seniors who always have plentiful experience of iGEM. And according to the experience, a team with at least a quarter of old members serving as the instructors, could keep a relevant stable condition in future.
Selecting new members
The selecting for new members varies in different teams, but all for the same purpose, find out the most reliable and excellent students. Some teams built a synthetic biology club for training attendants for a long time and eventually pick the ones who expressed excellently and insists until the last ( Like Lanzhou this year ). Some would arrange paper reading tasks and ask the member to summarize regularly, through final assessment to decide who is eligible to be the team member. Teams like Peking, owning completed selection measures, from public class, experiments training, group discussion to the final examination, are so rare. Because most Chinese iGEM team couldn’t keep heritage like natural turnover of old for young, this would become worse when there little elder members leave in team.
Different teams settled projects in different ways. Some got the idea from instructors, some discussed through reading papers, brainstorm, and eventually confirm the most probable and innovative projects (this procedure always synchronizes with the selecting periods). Effective brainstorm, thorough discussion between the groups are the core of setting up a novel but practical project.
We also discussed the source of funds during the meet up. Most of iGEM teams have sufficient finance support from their university, including team registration fee and experiment funds. The other parts such as travel expenses are usually offered by academic affairs office and the international offices. If a team suffers from lack of funds, raising money towards the public is admissible, but remember to gain the permission of school first before starting crowd-funding.
Words we want to say
The strong unity and persistence of all team members are the basis of completing iGEM projects. Besides, rationale plans on how to recruit new team members, how to raise funds for expenditures insufficiency, how to divide the labor work reasonably, how to transfer a novel idea into the practical experiments and so on are all necessary for final success of the team. Meanwhile there is no absolute right answer, and no absolutely suitable model for all teams. Predecessor experiences could be referred, but correctly recognize team and figure out the proper approach to remove the blocks are the most important.
We have investigated the current conditions of Chinese iGEM teams and found many common problems. We sincerely hope that someone could do a similar work like us and spread it all over the world, so that the problems hidden could be seen and maybe finally influence the settled rules.