Maak Festival - 20 May
Artist in residence - 31 July - 4 AugustIn collaboration with KLAS (Knowledge Link through Arts and Science) and the University of Groningen we introduced Agnes Meyer - Brandis into our lab and to the world of synthetic biology between July 31 and August 4. According to KLAS synthetic biology seems the perfect framework for artists to get inspired. Agnes wanted to gain insight in how synthetic biology could help trees walk to escape climate change (she is an artist :)). During the time she joined us, we talked about the possibilities of synthetic biology, what DNA and proteins are and what our project is about. We hope her week with us has provided some inspiration for herexposition.
Noorderzon, Performing Arts Festival - 17 - 27 August
LAB Egmond aan Zee - 28 August
GBB Symposium - August 29
RIVM Kennisparade - 7 October
Ferdinand Van Der Graaf - 30 August
KIVI Lecture - 15 September
De Jonge Onderzoekers
The Scholierenacademie organizes activities for primary school and high school students and this year, together with Stichting Openbaar Onderwijs Oost-Groningen (SOOOG), they set-off a new project which aims to interest East-Groningen (tangentially less fortunate socioeconomic background) primary school children in university and Biological sciences. Together with project-leader Douwe van der Tuin we turned the project into reality. The general goal is informing the kids about the university. What do students do? What am I, a molecular biology student, doing in a laboratory?
The Scholierenacademie initiated this project since research has shown that kids from the eastern part of the province Groningen tend to choose higher education less frequently. By starting really early with informing these kids about the potential of an academic career, the Scholierenacademie hopes to attract more interest and offer these kids a more informed decision.
We went to nine schools to give a guest lecture. A few days later, the children came to the lab to do some experiments themselves. We designed a one-hour guest lecture and a two hour practical at the Linnaeusborg, University of Groningen.
In the guest lecture the children learned in an interactive way about the function of enzymes. Two kids were blindfolded, they were the reagents that had to react with each other. This was of course very difficult. Then the third kid came in to assist, acting as the enzyme. The 'enzyme' had two binding places, the hands. The enzyme could bind very specific to the two 'reagents' and help to speed up the reaction.
The experiment the kids did in the lab was concerning the enzyme vanillyl alcohol oxidase (VAO). They received three different liquids and it was their job to define in which of the flasks the VAO caused a reaction
In total, we welcomed over 200 primary school children between 9 October and 13 October. The local newspaper even dedicated a reporter to write an article (Dutch) about this joint venture.
High school students in the lab
- Roos Honée & June Ying van Dam – Antibiotic resistance
For our high school thesis we searched for some place to do our research. Our subject is about antibiotic resistance and of course, it was not possible to do an experiment with antibiotic-resistant bacteria at school. Besides, we thought it to be very interesting to do our own research in a real laboratory. Meintje has helped us very well while conducting our research. Her colleagues in iGEM have also meant a lot to us. We learned a lot in the four days we worked at the lab. Antibiotics were our main focus during our research. We have looked at different times and concentrations to determine if the current antibiotic treatment could be shorter and/or with a lower concentration. We are extremely grateful that iGEM Groningen has given us the opportunity to stand next to them in the lab. This has played a very important role in our research. We, therefore, thank them greatly and wish them good luck with their iGEM project.
- Anne de Ruijter & Susan van Houten – CRISPR
Hi, we are Anne and Susan. We are both in the last year of high school and emailed the iGEM team of the University of Groningen if we could join in with their research for our profile assignment (Dutch: profiel werkstuk). The iGEM team has offered us this opportunity and we are looking back on two great days! We had excellent guidance from this friendly team. At the lab, there was a nice atmosphere while the students were all working very hard and driven by their ground-breaking research. This was fun and motivating to see. After the time in the lab, we got all our questions answered, which was very nice. In short, a super fun and educational experience at the University of Groningen with the iGEM team!
- Honours students
"For the Honours College, we wanted to perform a deepening research in the 2nd year. We wanted this research to be related to microbiology. So one of us then came with the idea to contact the iGEM team of Groningen. We told them that we would like to try to transform bacteria in a way so that they would digest microplastics. We quickly got a response from the iGEM team and they stated that they were glad to let us do our research within their research group. A meeting was set up to meet with 2 PhD students to talk about our plans. The team was very helpful during this starting phase since we had never set up our own research yet. After a couple more meetings our plans took a more realistic shape due to the tips iGEM feasibility. After all these meetings it was time to start working in the lab. Here we got assigned a supervisor which we could ask questions and he helped us get started. The further we got into the 3 weeks of our research, the more responsibilities we got from the iGEM team. Working on your own in a lab on your own research was a new and very instructive experience. At first, we had to get used to this responsibility, because in our regular program all practicals are structured perfectly around you as a student, and so you do not come across the challenges of a real research. An example of this was our strain of bacteria, which was not as competent as we were used to. All in all, we learned a lot about dealing with unexpected complications during synthetic biology research. Therefore, our time with the iGEM team has enriched us with many new experiences."
Education Card Game - Outbreak!
For our safety proposal for the RIVM we said we would make a card game. The game had to be fairly simple to explain and quick to play since few people would otherwise put in the time. Inspired by such games as Boonanza and Sushi Go, we quickly made a game where you would play dairy products worth some points and infect the products of other players to make them worth less.
It worked pretty well but it was deemed to be more fun than educational, especially after talking again to Jaco Westra. So we went looking for a different type of card game, a so-called "serious game". First, we had the idea to make an RPG style game more akin to Munchkin, where you would level up your "preparedness" to win and defeat synthetic biology inspired threats as a stakeholder. Preferably in a cooperative way, but making card or board games cooperative is a challenge in and of itself.
This proved to be way too much work and we needed help in design. We went to talk to Ferdinand van der Graaf who is a researcher and a teacher and has incorporated games in his lessons to teach about evolution. This proved to be very fruitful and we talked at length about game mechanics and how they interact. The most important points he made were:
- Do not think too much about the "serious gaming" aspect, if a game is not fun enough to play there's no point.
- Especially children read fluff (the little info text on cards) text and take it to heart.
- To make a game co-op you must include some mechanism external to players (something we did not end up using).
- To keep as close as possible to an existing game, since those games are already fun and balanced.
- To look at Machiavelli for inspiration, instead of a RPG game.
With this information we went back to the drawing board and made a completely new game. In this, you have to think about which stakeholder you want to be before the round starts and which other players want. As a stakeholder, you then can play cards in 3 different areas: Regulations, Opinions or Research. You win the game once you reach a certain threshold. The game can be played with 3 to 6 players, and takes about 30 minutes to explain and play in one setting
The game as it is, meshes quite well with the RIVM theme of "Thinking before doing", we presented this at the Kennisparade too. Of course, we wanted to print it professionally, including fiches and instructions.