It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening of custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, or a rich country inhabited by starving poor… Who indeed could afford to ignore science today? At every turn, we have to seek its aid… The future belongs to science and those who make friends with science.
-Jawaharlal Nehru (Independent India's first Prime Minister)
As part of our initiative to spread awareness about synthetic biology, we organized a lecture on ‘Introduction to Bioengineering’ for the young students at Prayas, IIT Kanpur.
Prayas IIT Kanpur is an endeavor undertaken by IIT Kanpur students, mainly focused on providing education to the marginalized in and around the campus, to increase awareness so that they can make more informed and rational choices about their career. Presently a club under the Presidential Council in the Students' Gymkhana, IIT Kanpur, it’s a voluntary service to promote the notion of 'Education for All' as a sustainable means of development.
In India, Bioengineering is not seen as a lucrative and fulfilling career option despite how useful and creatively involving the field is. It is partially due to lack of exposure to the various possibilities in the area and due to lack of awareness of its accomplishments. We, as a team involved in synthetic biology, believe that it is our responsibility to promote awareness. Prayas is our first step towards accomplishing this aim.
In the lecture that we delivered, we motivated kids about the uses of biology by taking them on tour through the cells and its various molecular machines. Then we made analogies between known phenomenon like exothermic combustion of petrol and how engineering principles make it useful (i.e., run a car) and then connected how the intricate machines of biology and engineering principles could connect to help ease our lives.
The kids got excited and were able to follow through the entire lecture. We showed them many practical applications of Bioengineering not just related to molecular biology but also about fields like Tissue engineering and Soft Robotics. The whole experience was fulfilling for us as well as for the kids. In the doubts and question-answer session the kids exhibited great enthusiasm and asked questions on how they could do such things, and interestingly, they even suggested their mechanisms on how they would solve some problems (like an artificial heart).
Thoughts of an attendee
To spread awareness about iGEM and our own project, our team conducted a lecture series for the campus community.
The series introduced the students to iGEM and the nature of work done in the same. We explained the requirements and practices one should follow to pitch an idea successfully and work on it in a presentable manner.
In the subsequent lectures we exemplified the process using our project. This helped us in harboring the students’ interest and exposed them to the nature of work being done. We found it to be an effective way to help students form future iGEM teams and motivate them to use their intellect to create innovative solutions.
iGEM requires teams to figure out a problem themselves which they feel requires immediate attention and then ideate a novel synthetic biological system to tackle it.
To give the students a hands-on experience of the ideation phase of iGEM we conducted an ideation hackathon where participants were required to submit an idea to curb the problem of water scarcity.
They were required to submit a possible working model that applies their idea in real life setting along with the principles involved and the corresponding literature. This opportunity allowed the students to get acquainted with the practices like literature survey and innovation on practical grounds which are crucial during the ideation phase of any innovative endeavor.
The team also met experts and people working in the field to gain more experience and look at the problem from different angles and thus, design a better working model to tackle the problem of Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate contamination in water bodies. The members met Dr. Purnendu Bose and Dr. Rajiv Sinha who are Professors at Dept. of Civil Engineering, IIT Kanpur and specialize in Environmental Sciences and Bioremediation respectively. They also met experts from Unique Agencies to know the intricacies of a real-world water bioremediation plant.
Read more at our Integrated Human Practices.