The two representatives from our team from Göttingen (Tobi and Tobi), and our colleages from Aachen (green shirts).
We were very delighted when we were invited by the DECHEMA(Dechema Society for Chemical Techniques and Biotechnology) to their annual conference this year. Together with the iGEM Team Aachen, we presented our iGEM projects, and most exciting for us, in front of an audience with representatives from the leading chemical industry. Afterwards, we had an interesting panel discussion about challenges and responsibilities of Synthetic Biology.
Besides this, we listened to other conference talks about biotechnology. Furthermore, we met with the iGEM Team from Aachen, and exchanged ideas and experiences we made within our work for iGEM.
One important goal of the iGEM competition is to get attention by the public, and awake people’s interest in a scientific field which plays a very important role in all our everyday lifes: Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology. In order to achieve this, and to spread our ideas and views regarding this topic, the iGEM Team Düsseldorf initialized a postcard campaign. Besides our team and team Düsseldorf, also the teams from Aachen, Bielefeld, Darmstadt, Erlangen, Hannover and Tübingen took part in this campaign.
The concept of this campaign was that iGEM Teams from all over Germany design postcards with an important aspect of Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology combined with a catchy motif, and exchange them with all the other teams. Now having a large variety of different postcards, the teams distribute them to the public. The aim is to give non-scientists an understanding of Synthetic Biology, what this means, and in which parts of our life it is involved. In order to give an impuls of thinking, we decided to create a postcard with the title “TOP DOWN is sometimes the right way” - according to the strategy of synthetic biology we applied in our project.
The postcards from the participating teams.
We took this great opportunity also to get in direct contact with generally educated people, which are no natural scientists. Distributing the postcards on both campuses of Göttingen, we came in direct dialogue with students of, for instance, economics, medicine, mathematics, law, philosophy, and school teaching. We invited them for discussions about genetically modified organisms, challenges, risks, and necessities to use GMOs to solve severe problems of our world. Many of them had an approximate idea of biotechnology, but were indeed surprised, that Synthetic Biology might be such a clean and effective alternative to traditional applications. A great example: Although knowing that cheese can be fermented with microbial rennet enzyme, several vegetarians were not aware of the fact that it can only be produced by GMOs. After all, we see that most educated people have an idea of it, however, we see that there is still a lot of potential to strengthen the awareness of the importance of Synthetic Biology.
We think that this postcard campaign was a big success, because using postcards as a medium, we also reached people with many different educational backgrounds. Furthermore, combining it with engagement work, we reached people directly.
Stop Motion Movie
Based on the motto “Lean back for the next three minutes and enjoy our project description in an easy form”, we created a stop-motion movie, in which our project is explained in an easy to understand and entertaining manner. Our explanation is supported by EriC, our model organism and, meanwhile, also our mascot. We hope that people finally want to learn more about the B12 synporter and Vitamin B12 in general.
GZMB Summer Symposium
The Göttingen Center for Molecular Biosciences (GZMB) is a joint initiative of more than 30 research groups of different faculties of our university. It arranges a summer fest every year, which involves a colloquium with talks from scientists from Göttingen, and also guests from other universities, and a social get together with a big barbeque.
The opportunity to be heard by scientists as a student was great for us, and the excitement was big. Moreover, also students from various different biological disciplines were there to listen to our presentation, and asked a lot of questions we answered.
Back to School
We think that school students are a very important target audience. Therefore, we went to the Grotefend Gymnasium in Hann. Münden to introduce the students (age 16-18) into synthetic biology as well as the iGEM competition and our project.
We think that it is very important for the students to get an idea about the countless opportunities biology offers and the impact of all fields of biology on our daily life. When finishing school and thinking about academic studies, we know from our own experience that we weren’t too comfortable with synthetic biology and what it meant at this point of our lives. But this is what we are doing now and to give those young people an insight in this endless field of research we visited them and gave our best to show them the high potential.
After introducing them into the everyday life of a student, we went over to explaining what synthetic biology is and which impact it already has on our life. Especially at this point we realized that is was worth to come as most of the students were fascinated about the importance of research in this area. Finally, we could tell them about the iGEM competition and the way how students from all over the world work in their teams to make the world a bit better. We limited ourselves to state our project in a quite simple and understandable way, to not scare them but make them interested.
All in all we really enjoyed the day with the students and hope that all of them will go their own way no matter if they go into science or somewhere else.
Master Interview Day (24th June 2016)
At the interview day of our master program Microbiology and Biochemistry, the new applicants visit the involved institutes to have an interview with the professors as part of the selection procedure.
They also get insight into different departments and get to know the location and the laboratories. During this event, we presented our poster to the future Master students from our program. Moreover, we answered any questions the future students came up with. The interest was huge. Besides presenting them our project, we mainly intended to get them interested in the iGEM competition to make sure that Göttingen can provide an iGEM Team in 2017.
We made contact to the the local newspaper here in Göttingen, and they indeed wrote an article about us. Nowadays, newspapers must of course be online supported for a great outreach. We were really happy that this newspaper article was also our most succesful post on facebook this year, with over 2,500 people reached.
Since 2014, the student council of our faculty organizes so called Bio&Pretzel talks, in a semi-formal atmospherere with beer and pretzels. The speaker, usually a professor or assistant professor, gives insight in his scientific field for a general audience: school students, freshmen of the university, relatives of the students, but also for ongoing scientists themselves. The aim of these talks is to inform the general audience, but also to give insights for ongoing scientists still looking for their scientific profession. Thus, it was a great honor for us as the iGEM team to have this opportunity. We talked about synthetic biology in general and the awesome applications which might be possible in future, and of course the responsibility which comes with it. We also outlined the idea of the iGEM competition, and presented our own topic. We told the audience about the importance of Vitamin B12, from which nutrients it can be uptaken, and how we could improve the efficiency of production with our synporter.
Our talk was received very well by the audience, and numerous questions from the scientific fraction were asked and answered. Probably the most important non-scientific question of the evening was, if, as beer is also containing a lot of vitamins, beer would be a good source of Vitamin B12. Sadly, we had to clarify that a human would need to drink 100 L of beer per day – which we do not recommend at all for a healthy and balanced nutrition.
Germany Meetup in Marburg
In August, we joined the Germany iGEM Meetup, organized by the iGEM Team Marburg. This Meetup gave us a great opportunity to learn to know each other, and to share our projects and ideas. During a whole day of colloquia, every team hat 10 min time to present their topic in a presentation.
Besides of that, we discovered the beautiful town of Marburg – the town of the fairy tales, and the town with the highest pub density in Germany. Also during the city tour with many stops at all the awesome sites, we got a further insight into the other teams, their strategies and their ideas, and so even plans for possible collaborations were developed in the late hour at the common table.
During a bubble soccer cup, we could also compare the physical strength of our team against the others. Answering the curious question of our bystanders, what exactly bubble soccer is, directly gave us a great opportunity to explain them synthetic biology.
The European Experience 2016 in Paris
The iGEM Teams Ionis and Evry from Paris organized an awesome event to bring together teams from Europe. We are happy that we could participate in this event and meet different teams from Europe and hear of their projects. All the great ideas and thoughts gave us even more motivation for our project, so we can be a well-deserved member of the iGEM community. We found new ideas, possible collaborations and some new friends.
Although it is still very important to go out on the street to reach people, we think that using social media in a highly targeted way is the most efficient way to spread information, and ideas, and impulses of thinking. Therefore, we decided to run a well planned social media campaign, in which we wanted to show the importance of Vitamin B12. Telling a story with different chapters about the red vitamin, we wanted to get peoples' attention on facebook. Moreover, we made our campaign going viral.
In Germany, Facebook is by far the most important social media platform (far ahead of for instance Twitter), so we focused on that. After analyzing our previous Facebook posts, we found out that including pictures of human faces in our posts causes significantly higher attention than those who did not include human faces. In result, including faces increases the number of likes and shares, which then again increases the number of re-likes and re-shares. The total number of likes and shares determine how many people will see our post in the end.
For this reason, we decided to combine the introduction of our team members with interesting facts about Vitamin B12. The trend of posting facts as a catchy picture currently generates many followers on facebook, combined with nice pictures of us, our campaign was supposed to inform many users. Moreover, it was also intended to generate new site followers to generally increase the outreach of our Facebook site, to reach even more people for future posts.
The result was amazing. Reaching up to over 1,200 people per post, the outreach was by far higher than any street campaign would have been. Many of our friends told us that they found our campaign very interesting, and asked what this iGEM competition might be. Of course, no question remained unanswered.
We can only encourage future iGEM Teams to use social media for reaching the public, and to put a very high focus on it.
iGEM at Local Sport Events
To show the athletic character of our iGEM team, and to make some advertising for our iGEM team in public, we participated at the old town run in June here in Göttingen - of course in our fancy iGEM shirts. Unfortunately, we could not compete with the nobel prize winning department of Stefan Hell, the “Hell's Runners”, who made the first place in the race - but we are sure that the iGEM Team Göttingen 2017 will make it!