Thinking beyond laboratory is one of the key factors that would affect the yield of scientific researches into real social interests. Thankfully, this idea has been recognized by the iGEM community for a very long time. Not only should every team participate in various social activities, but also we need to keep a real time interaction with the society, the place that we ultimately hope to create significance.
This year, our team applied the knowledge of synthetic biology to seek feasible solutions to the energy issue. Urgent as it is, the energy issue is more than a regional problem, but has raised global concerns. In this social context, converting solar energy into chemical energy is undoubtedly of fundamental and industrial importance. Our original interest on this topic was initially sparked by recent cutting-edge research in artificial photosynthesis. To enhance our understandings about energy issues, and meanwhile, arouse public awareness of synthetic biology, we raised multiple public questionnaires and dialogues within academe and industry. In communications with industrial community, field experts as well as administrative authority afterwards, we realized that development of a robust, sustainable and scalable approach for hydrogen production would be socially relevant, industrially important, but technically challenging. This has led us to set our ultimate goals to solve such challenge by leveraging the power of synthetic biology. We eventually proposed and demonstrated a sun-powered biofilm-interfaced artificial hydrogen-producing system, Solar Hunter. Benefiting from the real time social interactions, we kept modifying the system to be more and more adaptable to the scalable industrial application. This new system will in return, introduce a synthetic biology-based approach towards energy applications in industrial context.
Additionally, while conducting the research, our team not only kept real-time interactions with the society regarding to the project itself, but also we actively participated in a variety of educational propagation and public engagements. As the first-ever iGEM team at ShanghaiTech, this year we established the iGEM Day for Public Interests (iDPI), a special social activity for every iGEMers at ShanghaiTech. For this year’s iDPI, a Lab Open House Day was held where delegating high school students from Shanghai Coordinate International School paid a visit, aiming at arousing their interests in science, especially in synthetic biology. Moreover, we introduced the iGEM to them during the day, and are now helping them to build up their first-ever high school team for the future iGEM. Besides, this year our team closely collaborated with two iGEM teams in China, JSNU-China at Jiangsu Normal University and Tsinghua-A at Tsinghua University.
Click here to find our Integrated Human Practice.