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Many times we, as humans, create conflicts based on ignorance, maybe because we are afraid of things that are new to us, things that are different from everything we know. New things are capable of changing our lives and maybe that’s why we’re afraid, we are just too scared of getting out of our comfort zone. However, today more than ever we must understand that we’re living transitional times, things that were once thought to be impossible are now at our disposal. Humanity has grown at an incredible pace during the last century in every single aspect, yet we continue to hate on things we ignore. Just as most novel things, scientific developments receive several critics, many of them based on ignorance. As biotechnology students living in a developing country we live this reality, people criticize synthetic biology without having any knowledge of it. We believe that the only way to overcome this situation is through education, enlightenment will guide the way.
Synthetic biology is a novel discipline, that not many people are informed about, this can cause several conflicts because of misinformation they receive through others. We, as young scientists, know that if you are in the field of science it’s important to always communicate with the truth and teach this to your fellows, so that information can be accurate and reliable. During our human practices we dedicated a lot of our time on educating people about what synthetic biology is and all the things that have been developed through genetic engineering techniques. In the following sections we are going to point out how we introduced people to synthetic biology.
Throughout the course of the year we received all sorts of different people in our lab, these visits consisted of groups with a range of 10 to 15 people. Every single person that arrived had a different point of view about molecular biology. The vast majority of our visitors were high school students that were curious about what career was the best for them and they were also really curious to know what they could do with biotechnology.
Thanks to these visits we were able not only to show them our work, but also to explain to them the protocols that we followed for activities like transformation and ligation. We also took some time to tell them how biotechnology has changed our perspective about life in such a short time. People were very impressed by all the activities that genetically modified bacteria can do. We didn’t make much emphasis on it, yet we mentioned the function and main differences between the E. coli strains that we used for our experiments. Thanks to these approaches students got the chance to get closer to the study of molecular biology.
As we go through life we often forget the great importance of social sciences and their contribution to our formation as human beings. Sometimes we focus too much in ourselves and fail to remember that through art we can express and communicate a problematic in creative ways, this was what we intended.
It is said that art imitates life, but it is also said that every single person on earth has got its own different perspective on life. As a consequence, the artistic expression of each individual is different. When planning the event we intended for high school students to research about electronic waste, and use this trash in order to create artistic sculptures that represented the situation with a correct justification. The research done by the students included the following topics: composition of e-waste, effects on human health and the chemistry behind the bioleaching of these products.
While the alumni presented their sculptures to us, they explained their justification and also told us about the materials that they used and where they got them. As we spoke to the participants, we found out they didn’t know anything about e-waste until the moment they started doing the research. After presenting their master pieces students were wondering how such a big problem could be resolved.
At the conclusion ceremony of the event we decided to share with the assistants information of our project. We told the assistants our plan to retrieve metals from e-waste by using the microorganisms A. ferrooxidans and C. violaceum. After our brief explanation students and teachers began asking questions like: How does a bacteria read DNA from a different organism? How do you cut an specific site of the DNA? Where do you get the genes you want to insert in your microorganism of interest? The questions were pretty fun to answer, at one point our instructor Luis Mario stood up in order to answer some questions.
This was a truly exciting experience, since we got to see great interest from the students towards synthetic biology and genetic engineering techniques. However, the most exciting moment of the contest was when a highschool student reached out to us and told us he wanted to be a biotechnologist. That made us realize that we have a true impact on people.
Click Here for more details on our E-waste Art contest.
As we were looking for ways to reach the Tec community, we sought which media would have a higher influence on them. We found out that Frecuencia Tec 94.9 PM is a radio station that is all about creating awareness through valuable content that contributes to the development of a sustainable community.
We talked with Marco Antonio Cobos Cardona, the head coordinator of operations in the radio station, and he facilitated us the introduction of 11 radio informative capsules. These capsules’ main topics are focused on the diffusion of our project, the description of the synthetic biology for the competition, showing the problematic that our city faces day by day with the contamination produced by e-waste. We also focused on giving the audience solutions about the right way to recycle e-waste, places where to recycle and how are the good disposal practices helping the process of recycling e-waste.
The radio capsules are currently being transmitted three times a day, for an entire month.
Click Here for more details on our radio spots.
"Knowledge is Power" Contest
The iGEM team organized a contest, where the common knowledge of participants was put to the test. This in order to raise funds for the team. Knowledge is power consisted of getting teams of 3 to answer the most questions to win a prize. We had a total of 25 teams that competed against each other. There were several sections in this contest that included: Math, Biology, Physics, Art, TV and Series, History and Geography. During the contest we were able to ask questions on synthetic biology.
With this contest, we intended to give a good time with valid information to our school, explaining our project to the student community, so that they could recognize us from the beginning of the year.
We believe that we made a great impact on people from our surroundings, especially those in the student community. We were able to teach lots of people about synthetic biology by making this subject a common discussion topic. When we fear something that is different to everything we’ve ever seen before the solution isn’t avoiding it, but rather facing it. Ignorance is not a solution, the only way in which we can stop fearing everything that is new is through its study and research, then and only then can we decide to criticize and avoid.