Team:NAWI Graz/Discussions


After discussing our project with family and friends, it became clear to us, that there are big gaps in the knowledge about what genetic engineering and synthetic biology really is. Especially, about the molecular backgrounds there is hardly any general knowledge. That is why we decided to organize a discussion evening on the topic "Perception of Genetic Engineering and Synthetic Biology in Public". In order to bring the background a little closer to the general public. Besides the discussion night, we also co-hosted the Nerd Nite, where we talked about the subjects mentioned above, with everyone who was interested in learning a little bit more about genetic engineering and synthetic biology or our project.

Discussion Night

In Austria, people are rather negatively opposed to the concept of genetic engineering. The reason for this is presumably because genetic engineering in Austria plays no great role in, for example, the agricultural sector. We do not have to resort to genetic engineering either economically or agriculturally. The fewest know, that genetic engineering is also used in medicine and therefore necessary in Austria. By this misunderstanding, the generally accepted term genetic engineering has a very negative association. In order to stimulate the discourse on the subject of genetic engineering, we organized a discussion evening, to which we invited experts from various fields. Through our work for iGEM, we were aware of how much is discussed about genetic engineering, although the necessary understanding is only deficient. For this reason, we have decided to organize such an evening to clarify misunderstandings and half-truths. Different topics have been discussed during this evening. The aim was to increase the knowledge about the widespread use of genetic engineering in various fields. The main topics were: genetic engineering in media, genetic engineering in agriculture and foods and its use in medicine. In addition, some key words which are often heard on the radio or read more often in the newspapers, were deepened more precisely: Genetic engineering interventions in the environment for the “well of man”; patent of life: growing influence of large concerns; synthetic life: do we play god?

For support, we invited following experts:

Nerd Nite

Together with Nerd Nite, we hosted their first ever event in Graz. If you are wondering what Nerd Nite is – it is an event format, where people from different fields are holding 15-minutes presentations about certain scientific topics they are interested in. These can be subjects with which the persons are intensively engaged or an area in which they are working in, but of course, all scientifically related.

It all started, when the inventor of the event was asked, why he had been absent in his local pub for the last three months. He started a presentation about the expedition he did before and because the audience was so excited about it, it became a regular event.

By now, Nerd Nite is a monthly event in more than 90 cities across the world, during which several people give short and funny, but informative presentations about different topics

As we were able to host the first Nerd Nite ever in Austria, we were very proud to present our iGEM project there as well.

One of the participants at the event was Alexander Murer, former molecular biology student, who did present his start-up “Briefcase Biotech GmbH”. He is now working on a DNA-printer that makes it possible to print primer in the shortest possible time. “Producing your own DNA Primers becomes as convenient as brewing a nice cup of coffee”, Alexander Murer. Check out their homepage!

Daniel Derndorfer, another participant, did present “OLGA”, Open bioLab Graz Austria, the first biohacker laboratory in Austria, where people can meet and discuss scientific topics and work on their own research.

Martin Stefanec presented “ALL”, Artificial Life Lab, an interdisciplinary workgroup of the Department of Zoology from the Karl-Franzens University of Graz. In this group, students are working on bio-inspired robots, bee simulations, virtual brains or robot swarms for example. Take a look at their homepage!

After the presentations, there were lots of exciting discussions about future possibilities in the field of research and science. In addition, new ideas were raised about how to make laboratory life easier for scientists. We are curious to see, which of these great ideas might be implemented.