Every year, a small number of students from the Lower Saxony region has the chance to be part of the Life Science Lab in Hanover. They get the opportunity to form teams by themselves and work on different science projects. Examples include DNA extraction from roses and ELISA tests for the Zika-virus. We decided that this is a good platform to present our project and talk about science. We prepared a 3-hour long workshop, including a presentation about the different methods we often use in the lab, like cloning or immunostaining. We tried to explain the function and structure of TALE’s to the students and what impacts they could have in all subfields of science, like medicine or plant breeding for example. We also spoke about ethical aspects of synthetic biology, our motivation to study science and different aspects about the studies. For example the structure and the amount of learning and practical works. We hope to see some of them at the university later.
In cooperation with seven other German iGEM Teams in 2016 (Bielefeld, Aachen, Tübingen, Göttingen, Darmstadt, Düsseldorf, Erlangen) we decided to start a postcard action to clear up prejudices most people have against synthetic biology. The idea stemmed from the iGEM team in Aachen. We decide to design a postcard about the usage of pork blood in the insulin industry and how the quantity of pig slaughter can be reduced by using synthetically produced insulin. We sent some postcards to the other teams and received their postcards in return. We then distributed the cards on the streets, in bars, and around our university. In this way, we got in contact with people and talked about the positive aspects and struggles of synthetic biology. We also hoped to get rid of the fear that synthetic biology is dangerous and can damage the world.
A large part of science is the ethical questions that need to be answered every time one starts a new project. So we decided to talk about the ethical aspects of genome editing and the future abilities you have when your project is ready for the industry or a medicinal facility. Questions that come up are “Where are the ethical limits?" or "What happens when they get extravagated?” Most of the time, scientists just see the positive impacts of their work and in the process, forget to think about their negative consequences.
We talked to a group of science students about the fact that genome editing gives us the possibility of healing cancer and hereditary illnesses, and how this could introduce discrimination of disabled people or the beginning of “designer babies”.
While selling cake in the lounge of our university, we tried to inform people about the competition and our project. We got to talk about TALEs and how genome editing is? no longer just a dream. Everybody enjoyed good conversations and some sweet treats.
Because we live in a time where social media has such a big influence in the world, we tried to build up an online community on Twitter and Facebook. We attempted to connect with other teams and keep everybody updated on our progress. We also wanted to inform the public about the competition and our team. Reaching out to the community is very important in order to get new ideas, solutions for lab problems or just to exchange knowledge.