Team:TU Darmstadt/human practices


Human Practices

As we focused our work on the manufacturing of a wound bandage with a potential application on humans, we had to think about a responsible design of our product. For this, we got in contact with various experts from outside of our team.
So we kept in touch with diagnost-x Berlin for questions about which properties our hydrogel should have to make it suitable to use on open wounds. We also learned how we could not just avoid unwanted side effects but also how we could be able to support wound healing with our ChiTUcare. Furthermore, we obtained the help of the leading scientist in the field of chitosan, Prof. Dr. Moerschbacher, for our project. He helped us out multiple times and prevented us to run in a few dead-ends with our approaches. Through those two expert trade-offs, we were able to evaluate risks and problems and change our approach before facing problems.
As a part of Human Practices, we also concentrated on education commitments. We started CloneCademy as an online learning platform for synthetic biology, which gives the iGEM community the opportunity to teach people about their projects. Additionally, we held presentations in schools to provide pupils with information about synthetic biology in general and iGEM in particular. Of course, we promoted CloneCademy there as well.

Webseminar with Berlin diagnost-x

The production of a bandage which is designated for medical use becomes even more challenging, if the producer do not have the medical expertise to provide the necessary information about the properties the bandage should have. As this was the case for us, we were very grateful for the cooperation with diagnost-x Berlin. Together, we organized a web seminar in which we were able to ask students from the iGEM team Berlin about our bandage’s setup and composition if it is applied on open wounds and discussed potential risks that might come along with certain setups. Within this short time, they managed to provide us with many valuable information which brought us a step further to our bandage. In addition, they confirmed the safety of the fluorophore we employed in our project even if applied on open wounds . Also, the students from the iGEM team Berlin, amongst which are many medical students, confirmed that the peptide linker, due to its shortness, should not have harmful effects on the skin either. One question we discussed in the seminar was about the pH value of the bandage. Wedecided to produce hydrogels in which the pH can be adjusted to the suitable value as different pH values can have different effects on various wounds. Of course, there are many more unansewered and unknown questions about the bandage before ChiTUcare could be produced and launched, but thanks to diagnost-x Berlin we were able to clarify some of the morst important onse.

Educating future iGEMers

German school Stockholm

During our stay in Stockholm with five of our team members, we had the opportunity to visit the local German school. There, we spoke to final year students about iGEM and synthetic biology as a field of study. Our goal was to engage in a conversation with them rather than just telling them about our experiences. We wanted to learn more about their thoughts and what they imagined biology to be. For this purpose, we designed an interactive presentation. Even though it was still early in the morning, the students were eager to learn more about our work and readily responded to our questions. Especially towards the end, we had a great discussion about ethics in biological work. Unfortunately, it was cut short due to time reasons. For us, it was great to see how younger people, yet uninvolved in science, perceived biology. It taught us that the students are willing to learn more and seek further education. We feel that it is our responsibility as young scientists to teach and inspire them to pursue this eagerness to learn. We want to thank Mrs Delp for giving us the possibility to have this informative and constructive session with her students. We really enjoyed it and learned about how to modify our lessons for other schools.

Figure 1. Inside the German School in Stockholm Lara and Bea showcasing german and swedish students the iGEM Competition and our project.

Johanna-Geissmar Gymnasium

The experience in Stockholm taught us that we should focus more on including the students into our presentation, and to arrange enough time for discussion. On the 18 of October, three of us went to the Johanna-Geissmar Gymnasium (high school) and gave a lesson in two classes of senior students. We conducted a fifteen-minute presentation about who we are, what iGEM is and then showed them our e-learning platform CloneCademy. We created an interactive module imparting the basics of biology to the students, where they can test themselves on "what I´ve learned in school so far". Enthusiastically the students plunged into working on these modules and scored high. They seemed excited to work with Clonecademy and were greatly interested in modules dealing with topics that are relevant for their Abitur (graduation), such as cell biology, genetic engineering, and cellular neuroscience. We aspire to create such modules in January with the result that all students graduating in Baden-Württemberg (Germany) can use this platform to be prepared for their last exam in high school with outstanding success.

Figure 2. In the Classroom. Elena and Bea explaining the iGEM Competition and our project.

CompuGene Seminar

CompuGene is an initiative from the german state Hessen to develop research in the field of computer-based genetic circuits. It is one of our sponsors and contributors to our cause.
CompuGene has held several seminars about newest research on the field of synthetic biology at TU Darmstadt during our project. The speakers presented their results and successes of their studies, as well as their further goals. It has been a great new opportunity for iGEMers from our team to have a gaze into latest scientific progress and newly created fields of study. In the context of this initiative we were able to present our project in front of some active researchers, including Prof. Dr. Moerschbacher. This gave us the opportunity to discuss our project with well-respected scientist and receive objective criticism concerning our issues, and input of great value for our project.
Yet there is even more to this cooperation. On the 26th of July CompuGene has made it possible for Prof. Dr. Moerschbacher, one of the biggest experts on the field of chitin and chitosan research to visit TU Darmstadt and have a seminar with us about the production of chitosan in bacteria, thus being one of the turning points in our project. For that we are very grateful to CompuGene.
The support CompuGene provided to us has been a major factor leading to success in our cause. Since the beginning of our project and right to its end the CompuGene initiative stood by our side, allowing our student iGEM team to contribute to real scientific work and research. Our whole team greatly appreciates that.

Integrated Human Practice

In this year’s iGEM competition we set ourselves the goal of producing designer chitosan. In this context we are happy to say that we managed to convince the president of the European chitin society Prof. Dr. Bruno Moerschbacher from the Westfalian Wilhelm’s University Münster to visit us. His visit resulted in some crucial changes of direction in our project. He told us about his large experiences with chitosan and different chitin deacetylases he worked with.
But most importantly he experienced the passion that lies behind our project, which is why he decided to offer us his help for the duration of the project.
This dialogue we managed to establish helped us to overcome some problems we dealed with. We think that we managed to leave a lasting impression on him with the idea of iGEM. We hope he will introduce his university to the iGEM Competition.
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For this years Education and Public Engagement efforts we decided to build upon tendencies we experienced in society these days. We’re talking about the trend of E-Learning and web-based interactive learning platforms. As we looked at the iGEM Community we quickly realized that there is a gap that needs to be closed. In reaction this year we capitalized on the Education part and developed a web-based interactive learning tool targeting synthetic biology and safety aspects. We invision, that the iGEM Community will use this platform to establish an interactive connection with the society through education. Additionally we hope, that the iGEM Community will take up this idea and further develop this tool. Read more