Team:Toulouse France/Engagement

iGEM Toulouse 2016

Public Engagement

We believe that Science should be the corner stone of human societies. In the spirit of the iGEM competition, we strongly committed ourselves into education and discussion with the public about Science, Synthetic biology and the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). This commitment is illustrated by the creations of a play about GMOs, an educational kit for schools, videos to explain our bench works or by our active participation to several local and Europeans scientific events.

Creation of an educative kit

With the objectives of making biology accessible to anyone and of attract children to biological sciences, we have developed an educational kit destined to primary schools and secondary schools. It provides explanations of what biology, life sciences and the concept of DNA are. It contains instructions for simple experiments and provides information on precautions to take when handling GMOs. This was done under the supervision of Arthur Sarrade-Loucheur, a very creative PhD student.

Creation of educative multi-languages videos

Applying a new protocol for the first time is never that easy, and a lot of iGEM routin protocols were new to us. We have therefore decided to film explanatory videos about manipulations that we have performed at the bench, so that anyone with the right equipment could understand and carry out these manipulations.

Click here to see our tutorials

In addition, in the exchange spirit of the iGEM network, we have collaborated with iGEM teams all around the world to translate our script in six languages and offer the possibility to hear trhese videos in their native tongues. That way, we were able to upload on Youtube a collection of videos in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese. More information in our collaboration section.

Discussion with the public

We believe that it also our duty to promote Science and Synthetic Biology beyond the walls of our university and engineer school and to explain the beauty and the rationale of our iGEM project. The best way to do so is to directly discuss with public. That’s why we have actively participated to various scientific events.

At an event at the Toulouse Museum of Natural History on the topic of Genetics, we have animated a stand on bacterial diversity. We explained how numerous and diverse are microorganisms, their incredible ability to occupy any type of environments, even the most hostile ones. We also explained their importance for life in general and that not all of them are pathogens. We talked about the notion of the intestinal microbiota. We also explained the importance of hand-washing by showing Petri plates inoculated with microorganisms from either clean or dirty hands. 4-6- years children were given the opportunity to perform basic experiments such as observing various microorganism through a microscope, and for the youngest one, the opportunity to colour drawing of bacteria. We also explained how to make their own growth medium…and discuss all day-long with their parents about our iGEM project.

At the Toulouse PhD students meeting, we have presented the project ApiColi (from iGEM Toulouse 2015) in order to show the principle and values ​​of the iGEM competition.

At Toulouse’s Exposciences, we presented a poster on our iGEM project for the first time, exposing what we intended to achieve. The stand was also dedicated to children. Thus, thanks to a model, we explained synthetic biology in easy terms so that everyone could understand. Then, we helped children to extract banana DNA to show them an easy and visual manipulation, and also to make concrete the notion of DNA to them.

At the European Night of Sciences in Toulouse, we had a stand dedicated to bacterial diversity. We again gave the opportunity to children to make basic experiments such as the purification of banana DNA. This exhibition was coordinated by some of our iGEM supervisors (Thomas Lautier, Stephanie Heux, Arthur Sarrade-Loucheur and Mathieu Fournié).

Creation of a theater play about GMOs

From the discussion with the public, we realized that debates about GMOs were grounded on false perception of what they actually are. We felt we have to do something about this and we created a 15 min theater play to explain what GMOs are and to trigger a debate with the public. This play ‘Pros and Cons of GMO” has for pitch a party gathering 5 friends in a student's apartment.

Click here to see it on Youtube

With the pretext of a debate between an opponent to GMOs and a pro-GMOs, we explain what GMOS are, their several types, modified plants (GMP), modified animals (GMA) and modified microorganisms (GMM). We also provided various definitions so that the public could realize that legislations and definitions are very different from one country to another, as this is a real problem to regulate the use of GMOs at the planet scale. We also explained our iGEM project and what synthetic biology is.

The play is played by 4 of us plus one friend, Julie Navarro. It was created under the complete lead of a PhD student Alexia Dumas (our stage director). Our script evolved thanks to the supervision of Matthieu Pouget, artistic director and teacher at the University of Toulouse 2. We have been able to create a high-quality video of the play. We have scheduled to perform live this play notably in front of students of our university, unfortunately, the script was not ready at that time. We hope that we or others will be able to do so in the near futures, because we believe that this initiative could really educate public about the GMO issue.