What makes our project a great one is not only the project itself, but also the engagement with public issues.
See our story.
After the 2015 Giant Jamboree, team members of BIT-China cannot wait to share their experience of participating in iGEM. With the coming of the cold winter, we came up with an idea to start a winter camp and light the fire. Students of different majors including life science and technology, electronic engineering, software, art design and so on came to our publicity.
We invited our instructor Prof. Chun Li to give a general introduction about synthetic biology and iGEM competition, which inspired many students’ interest in synthetic biology and they wanted to know more about the logic design and skills required to start a project.
Many of them wished to take systematic courses to have better understanding of the core concept about synthetic biology including “design, build and test”. They would like to not only gain more besides biology knowledge, but also extend to how to give a good presentation and how to integrate the mathematical equations into the iGEM project. Based on their needs, we prepared several lectures for eveyone may be interested in the skills required for iGEM competition, the speakers were our instructors and team members. Here are the topics:
(1) The history and development of synthetic biology (Chun Li)
(2) Literature searching and reading (Chenyi Li)
(3) Photoshop training (Mingming Cao)
(4) Academic writing and English presentation training (Hui Luo)
(5) Brainstorm introduction (Zeyan Li)
(6) System biology and mathematical model (Pengcheng Zhang)
We got many positive feedback from students. The overview of synthetic biology let them know how broad the field is. And the training of software such as Photoshop and Matlab shall facilitate their use of tools. It’s the beginning of studying, not the end. They showed great interest in the concept of standardization and the idea of engineering design. And we also invited them to visit our labs. From preparation to implementation, the whole winter camp lasted for two months. Then, we welcomed students who showed great passion to iGEM to take part in the brainstorm activity.
What's more, our teacher, Prof. Chun Li, introduced iGEM to students at Yan'an University. They wanted to set up a team to participate in the iGEM, but they had never established any iGEM team and had no experience. Therefore, we invited three students from Yan'an University to be our team members to design and implement our project together. In this process, they not only expanded their knowledge of synthetic biology and improve their experimental skills, but also learned how to build an iGEM team.All those will help them to establish an iGEM team next year on their own. More importantly, we are closer to the idea of iGEM and spread synthetic biology to more people. We look forward to their outstanding performance next year.
In August, 2016, BIT-China was invited to take part in the Asia-Pacific conferenceheld by team NCKU-Tainan. About 20 teams participated in the conference. All of them made splendid speeches to present their own projects and discuss with each other. During the special journey we got to know plenty of exciting ideas and got many useful help.
We also presented our project, and received lots of feedback to improve our design. As the first one to present, the Q and A section of our team was under hot discussion. The questions raised referred not only to the project design, but also extended to considerations about safety issues. However, since the logic order of our presentation was not clear enough, the audience misunderstood the core concept of our project.
After the conference, we adjusted the logic order and improved our oral presentation.
In addition to this, we held and took part in several exchange meetings with other three teams: Peking, Jilin_China , UCAS.
Through these exchange meetings, we got many useful suggestions to shape our project step by step.
In the Asia-Pacific conference, we greatly enlarged our horizons by sharing ideas with other teams. At the same time, we felt it’s not enough and it’s necessary and urgent to do more things. So we decided to establish a platform for teams’ interactive communication called iGEM Union.
This union mainly have three purposes:
a) Make it more convenient for iGEMers’ online communication this year:
In this way, most of the common problems can be solved as quickly as possible, and the members can get inspiration from these communication.
b) Make it more convenient for the following iGEM teams:
Excepting for presenting every team’s project, most of the members shares their experiences on this platform, during the preparation process of competition. Based on these resources, the following iGEM teams can get many information at their beginning and avoid many mistakes.
c) To publics
We think that every iGEMer has the duty to spread the knowledge of synthetic biology to public. So that’s what we do, giving relative courses to anyone interested in it. With this union, we also introduce the idea of iGEM competition, and what we gained in the challenging process to attract more people to participat in iGEM competition.
To achieve these goal, we tried hard.
The first step is to build a Wechat official account to communicate with other teams and propagandize to the public. This way, all the followers can get to know the member teams and communicate with them. For us, it makes investigating and getting feedback from the public more easily.
We led the HP union and started the union with other five teams: BIT, CGU-Taiwan, Jilin-China, Peking, TJU. So far, more teams up to 10 are members of the union.
We shared some articles about issues containing biological safety, ethics, iGEM competition and other controversial topics which are concerned by public.
Besides, we plan to provide new teams or the potential participating teams with resources including union members’ project introduction and team members’ personal contact information attached with attribution.
This way, it can facilitate the communication among students.
We truly hope, in the coming future, more and more iGEM teams can join our iGEM Union, more and more students can participate in iGEM competition.
Communication with COFCO
What we designed is a product that will be used in large-scale fermentation, to get some suggestions for applying our project in industry production, we visited COFCO Nutrition and Health Research Institute.
We introduced our project to the staff, getting many useful feedback. Their suggestions helped us view our project in a different way, find the existing problem in our project, and lead us to think more about application and the practical problems. For example, they talked about whether we can give an artificial signal to indicate the plasmid lost and kill the bacteria. In this way, they can reduce the cost of heat treatment to eliminate the bacteria before the emission to the environment. Besides, they raised a question about the distribution of inhibitor proteins as well as the plasmids. The random distribution may also lead to the signal delay, which inspire hot discussion among our team members. These considerations give us more possibilities to perfect our project and expand our project into industry production.
The company’s manager said that plasmid instability was really a troublesome problem and encouraged us to polish our project. The staff also complained about the complex processing of pollutions containing antibiotics. All those words came to expand our background and reminded us of the emergencies of unlimited use of antibiotics.
To further investigate the issues of antibiotic-use and the public acceptance, we chose Internet survey method among scientists, researchers, common students of BIT and general public to collect information of theirs opinions to iGEM, our project, plasmid losing problem and antibiotics. We finally gathered 324 valid questionnaires in the end.
Part of the results and questions are shown in fig.7.
From the results, we can say:
a) Over 96.11% of people think iGEM is of help to every iGEMer, 54.77% of them think this competition can improve students’ ability widely;
b) Over 92.72% of people have ever noticed the plasmid-losing problem, 54.27% has been affected by it seriously;
c) Over 95.76% of people is concerned about the use of antibiotics, 69.01% of them think antibiotics are very harmful, and should be treated cautiously;
d) Over 92.93% of people show interests in our project, 54.77% of them would like to try our plasmid-free system in their experiments.