Mission: 2018 iGEM Southern China Regional Meeting
Date: May 6, 2018
Location: Shenzhen University
Not very long after we formally set up our team, we received the invitation to attend the Southern China Regional Meeting organized by the iGEM team of Shenzhen University (SZU-China). At the time, our project has not been decided yet. However, in order to experience the feeling of competition, we decided to use papaya anti-ringspot virus as an example to introduce our project ideas at the exchange meeting. So, on the morning of May 6, 2018, we, the members of the first iGEM team of Shenzhen high school started our journey. First stop, Xili campus of Shenzhen University.
Entering the lecture hall and taking our seats, the meeting began officially, the confident team members were all absent-minded at the beginning, only to listen to each other. However, as the meeting went on, each member of the team finally realized the seriousness of the problem, is that we barely understand other team's projects after listening to their presentations. We were bombarded by the terms which we have no idea about. At this point, we finally realize that what we had is blind confidence backed by no actual knowledge. We prayed and prayed for the people on the stage to slow down. Our presenters, Charlie Li, and Lindsay Mo are already under great pressure. Finally, the host announced: "Let's invite SSHS-Shenzhen to present their project!". Charlie and Lindsay took a heavy step onto the podium and began their presentation.
The two speakers showed remarkable composure when they first appeared despite being clearly underprepared compared to other groups at the meeting. In the briefing words, they explained our aim to "increasing crop yield by killing diseases in a non-transgenic manner", and they closely combined the practical examples of papaya ringspot virus with admirable results.
But we didn't stay optimistic for that long. Only minutes in the Q&A session, our presenters encountered questions like:
1) Why make papaya instead of other crops?
2) Why should the non-transgenic method be adopted to pay for it, while the transgenic method should not be adopted?
3) Did direct public dissemination of gm knowledge soon resolve the problem?
4) Will the use of bacteria to kill diseases on crops cause harm to the human body of edible crops?
5) What about bacteria?
6) How can special RNA from bacteria get into crops?
The two speakers struggled to cope with the intense bombardment, so we had to move forward by giving the reason: "our project aren't fully shaped yet".
At this time, the team members finally realized that the road ahead was difficult and dangerous and their blind confidence was laughable. We felt the strong competitive atmosphere of iGEM. At the same time, we began to think seriously about our project direction: RNAi technology is a technology that the team members are all interested in. Obviously, the subject of "papaya and ringspot virus" is beyond the ability of middle school students, we can only find another way. Finally, we decided to go out into the field and conduct a field survey. We consulted farmers and experts to find out "what is the most prevalent pest in the local field?" To answer this question, we planned for a field investigation.