Team:NYU-AD/Human Practices

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Human Practices


Our Human Practices efforts this year focused on two main areas: creating awareness of what synthetic biology and iGEM are, as well as getting input from potential users of our device in order to shape our final product and target audience.

As we began establishing a conversation with the people from our community, we quickly realized that most people around us did not know about synthetic biology and much less about iGEM. In order to address this issue, we developed a brochure that gave a short introduction to synthetic biology, iGEM, our project and the toxin we were detecting. In addition to that, we also had an information stall outside a popular dining venue in our university in order to inform faculty, staff and students about our project and get them interested in getting involved with iGEM. Another activity we developed together with the NYU Abu Dhabi debate team was a debate about bioengineering topics. Our interest in establishing a dialogue through debating was to understand different points of view from ours about synthetic biology.

Another big part of our Human Practices was making sure that the communication with our community wouldn’t be one-sided, but actually establish a dialogue with the people in our university and beyond so that we could receive feedback from them about our project. This was especially important in the context of our project since we were looking to develop a device that could be used outside of a laboratory setting to detect Shiga-like toxin. That’s why we worked really hard to reach out to potential users of our product with our Human Practices work. During the first stages of our project, we decided to make our target audience consumers of street food. However, after interviewing people from back home, it appeared that most consumers were unlikely to wait for around 45 minutes for the result of the testing. Once we had a prototype of our device, we decided to reach out again to potential users. We created a focus group, and found out that while our target audience was interested in detecting contaminants in their food, they weren’t willing to wait for a result from our device. The focus group and the interviews influenced our decision to change our target audience from consumers to street food vendors.