Public Engagement

Going the extra Mile out of the Lab


Bringing synthetic biology and the iGEM projects in contact with the public is a relevant part of the iGEM competition. In order to reach new interested groups, we were dedicated in many activities to spread our public outreach. Among other things we co-hosted the CeBiTec pupils academy, published a german homepage, presented our project at a scientific symposium and the public ceremony of NRW day 2016, designed a postcard regarding synthetic biology and had close communication with media and press, including a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Our Projects

When communicating our project to a non scientific audience we discovered early in our project that not only our Evobody project but also synthetic biology are difficult to explain. The publicity seems to be biased towards genetical engineering and additionally our scientific approach is hard to understand. To overcome these difficulties we started several projects to improve our communication and presentation skills and created tools to simplify the dialogue:

Pupils Academy
We experienced first misunderstandings when we had the chance to present our topic to the scientific staff of our institute in April. These general communication issues appeared once again when we had the chance to be instructors at the pupils academy in june. During guidance through genetic experiments we were able to talk about our project, iGEM and synthetical biology in general. Although the attendees belong to a very educated peer group of young people we had major problems understanding each other.

Florian Helfer
To further evaluate these problems we established dialogue with Florian Helfer. Florian is a cultural anthropologist from Frankfurt am Main, Germany. He helped us evaluating the problems we had, communicating our project and after an extraordinarily extensive skype conference we concluded, that scientific language and the very different vocabulary state the biggest obstacle.

Directed Evolution of educational Outreach
We tackled this obstacle on different levels. First of all we were eager to improve our very own presentation skills. Inspired by our Evobodies we conducted a kind of directed evolution of educational outreach. To do so we held a series of presentations in different high schools in Northrhine-Westfalia and subsequently took a survey among the pupils regarding comprehensibility and presentation style.

Secondly we created a dictionary explaining about 500 different scientific words in a simple yet correct language. This tool enables scientists to reflect possible publications regarding mainstream understandibility and enables non scientific people to comprehend difficult specialized topics.

Finally we engaged in a project started by University of Düsseldorf and designed and distributed postcards to share basic knowledge about synthetic biology.

When celebrating the birthday of our district in Germany each year one city organizes a major event. This year's celebration was hosted by D%uuml;sseldorf. iGEM-Bielefeld had the honor to present this years project in front of the local audience. Here we had the opportunity to talk about Evobodies and practice our soft skills.

On 4th of July the 11th annual CeBiTec-Symposium took place in Bielefeld. We were glad to have the chance to present a poster about our project in the first poster session. When discussing Evobody generation we learned a lot about difficult parts within our project and received helpful feedback from experts in various fields.

Providing waffles and information

At June 1st we had an information point in the Bielefeld University and sold delicious waffles! Lots of people came around to talk with us about our project and about iGEM and of course for eating waffles. Thereby we had the chance to give students and graduates of all kinds of courses an insight into synthetic biology. If you missed us and our excellent waffles, don’t be sad. Come and visit us on our home coming stand on November 21st at the Bielefeld University main hall!