Team:Stockholm/Public Engagement

iGEM Stockholm 2018 Wiki

Public Engagement


We, in iGEM Stockholm 2018, have successfully integrated many different parts of society, and made an impact that lasts. We have focused on how to make iGEM life easier for teams all over the world, resulting in a safety booklet for future iGEM teams to come, as well as a modeling handbook to provide teams with valuable information regarding modeling.

Regarding outreach, we have focused on including all parts of community. The result of our close collaboration with different parts of community led to the creation of a board game to engage university students, and a children’s book to introduce children to the world of synthetic biology. We successfully created a bridge between students and research - starting a Standard Student Society within the International Standardization Organization (ISO).

Our strategy from the beginning was to focus on what problems we face in our society today. We thought about how to tackle these problems and how to successfully create an outreach with engagement that lasts longer than the time span of the iGEM competition. We began our journey by having a look in the society we lived in, we tried to understand how it worked and how we should proceed with our project, Biotic Blue, from a Human Practices perspective. We started off with a strong belief that a successful project comes from talking with people from the community, and thus we started our journey within the deep core of the society - getting into people's brains with the help of Misse Wester.

The Spark that Lit the Engine

Misse is a Professor within Philosophy at Lund University, at the division of Risk management and Societal safety. Misse has great expertise in risk perception and we talked with her about the thoughts that people in society have about engineered organisms and synthetic biology. We wanted to know how the awareness might influence our project.

A very important “take home message” when speaking to Misse was that there are other perspectives than the purely scientific. It is common that people tend to rely on the philosophical perspective such as “right and wrongs”, making it more difficult to respond with scientific facts. Additionally, the question about engineering organisms can become an economical question rather than a question about the technique. It is also a fact that engineering and ethics are intertwined, and the definition of natural will differ depending on who you ask.

Misse got us to understand that scientific arguments are not enough in the ongoing discussion regarding engineered and modified organisms. Most views are not based on knowledge, but on opinions. Communication must be based on this fact, but we also need to define society. She got us to understand the importance of understanding that society is heterogenous. We, as individuals, are far from the same, and in order to address society we need to start from there. That was the spark to questions of the kind “Do people in different groups want different things? Are people more affected by where they were born, or what decade they were born in?” rather than “What does society know about these matters, how do we make them understand?”. It also made us understand that we need to approach different groups in society to learn more.

Misse also talked with us about the importance to understand that we are not here to change people’s beliefs or to teach them about synthetic biology in that sense. We are here to find people who are willing to listen to us and help us make our project valuable for society as a whole, by integrating thoughts from different societal groups.

Thus, the question that we were left with in the end was “What do we do for those who want to make a change and can make a change?”. How do we make them join us in the open discussion about synthetic research? We thought about this for a long time, and it resulted in fruitful discussions with many people from different stages in their lives, and people with different experiences. These questions were of vital importance for our product design and implementation. Misse influenced us to focus on risk assessment and ways to make sure that our product would not be unethical or directly harmful to the environment, by consulting with Per Sandin.

Misse specifically inspired us to do these events and products, amongst many others that we did, have a look!

Lab on Wheels

Children's book


International Standardization Organization (ISO)

Per Sandin (The Work of Conduct)

Safety Booklet

Children's Book ("Charlie and the Magic Microscope")

One way to invite the younger part of the society into the world of biology is by illustrating and telling them a story about how our microorganisms inside the body work, even though we cannot see them! That’s exactly what we did, writing the children’s book “Charlie and the magic microscope”. The book was translated into Swedish and English and books were distributed around libraries and hospitals in Stockholm as well as different events in the UK with the help of iGEM Warwick. To meet Charlie click here.

Lab on Wheels

How do you show the public what research is like, when you can not invite tons of people into the lab? You go out and find a place where people gather and take the lab there! The 10th of August the human practices team took a table, some agar plates, a microscope and ingredients for extracting DNA from a fruit and went to one of the most crowded streets in Stockholm. We started experimenting, and lots of people stopped by and showed interest in what we did. The main focus was to show how easily accessible research is, but we also talked about our project and what we are doing in the lab. Some of the comments and questions we got were: “This is really interesting!”, “I will try this [the fruit DNA extraction] at home with the kids.” “Forensics extracts DNA from hair, do they use the same procedure?” “What can you do with the DNA when it is extracted?”

We got a chance to talk to a diverse group of people; different ages, cultures and occupations. Somehow we also stumbled across Mojdeh R. Tabari, who works in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

ISO collaboration - standardization of clean water

“You did an important job. Your work will be used as an example for the other students. At the end the students who attended the meeting were very interested in establishment of another SSS. [...] You started an important work that can serve as an example for the other students in the world.” - Mojdeh R. Tabari

After meeting with Britta Hedlund at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we understood that there is no standardized way of measuring and detect sulfamethoxazole and other pharmaceuticals in the water from wastewater treatment plants, rivers and seas. We then happened to meet Mojdeh R. Tabari, microbiologist and secretary for several boards in the International Standardization Organisation (ISO). Mojdeh gave us the opportunity to be the first group of students creating a Standard Student Society (SSS) and establishing a technical committee for ISO, for the purpose to provide a foundation for future work on international standards as students. We wanted to be able to work at the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals in wastewater, and ISO gave us this opportunity.

After creating the SSS we started working on the different stages beginning with a New Working Item Proposal (NWIP), “Limit of Sulfamethoxazole in wastewater”, including how to measure and detect sulfamethoxazole in wastewater in a standardized way. Our work in SSS and the technical committee (TC) was really similar to the process in ISO when standards are established. To inspire other students to participate in similar processes, we got the opportunity to present our work in a movie at the Technology and Science University in Iran for students and the ISO secretary Sergio Mujica. Our work was also presented by Mojdeh at the international ISO conference in Switzerland. Check out the procedure on how to form an SSS and develop a student standard here.

We reached the stage of a committee draft in developing the standard, which will be developed further and can be found here.

We were given the opportunity to send a video message to the ISO meeting at the biggest University in Iran, to talk about our work as the first established SSS. We hope to set the example for other students to start their own SSS!

Boardgame ("Plasmido")

Instead of going to a high school and simply talk about iGEM, synthetic biology or our project we wanted to make something interactive and fun. We wanted young adults to get a taste of how it really feels to be part of iGEM. With these thoughts in mind we created “Plasmido”, a board game with the goal to be as creative as possible to solve a real world problem using the power of BioBricks. All the challenges were chosen from former iGEM teams to show not only the range of challenges that can be faced but the potential of synthetic biology. The goal of the game is similar to the goal of the iGEM competition, you get out in the world -literally, with our world map as the game board- search for BioBricks, collaborate with other teams around the world represented by the other players, try to integrate your project in the society and deal at the same time with lab related obstacles to solve a problem in a creative and innovative way. The first player, who finds all the desired BioBricks to master the challenge goes to Boston and presents the solution at the Giant Jamboree. Check out the rulebook of the game here.

The Work of Conduct

Per Sandin is an Associate Professor in philosophy at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science (Uppsala), as well as a lecturer in bioethics and environmental ethics. He got us to understand that we need to think about how important water is for all individuals, and how vulnerable we would be if our water sources would become contaminated. After meeting with Per, we got very interested the topic of ethics and regulations. This inspired us to write the safety handbook but also to propose a Work of Conduct. This is a document for wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) on how to monitor and treat pharmaceuticals in wastewater effluents, with a focus on antibiotics. We have through this document combined our collaboration with ISO, with our contact with experts within WWTPs to create a solution to the growing problem that is arising in water bodies around the globe. You can find the Work of Conduct here.

Safety Booklet ("How Safe is Your Project?")

How do you stay safe in you iGEM project, and what do you need to think about when introducing your project to the world? These are things that our Human Practices team has thought about extensively, and it led to fruitful conversations with professionals. We have learned how to take the highest safety measures when developing our idea, and therefore we wanted to share our knowledge with future iGEM teams to ensure safe practice within iGEM. Therefore we wrote a booklet about safety, to create a safer world. Download it here.

Education and Engagement

Meeting and pitching Biotic Blue to Lars-Olof Eriksson, seller of the magazine Situation Stockholm

We met with Lars-Olof Eriksson who homeless in Stockholm. To get through each day, Lars-Olof sells the magazine Situation Stockholm , a "news paper" with the aim of getting homeless people on their feet again. Meeting at the Situation Stockholm headquarters to talk about homelessness, we got a great insight in parts of society that are often forgotten. We got to pitch our product Biotic Blue, and discussion arose on where it could be suitable to implement the idea. One interesting aspect of our talk was that Lars-Olof was the most political person that we met. We often came to talk about politics and the left wing parties, since they were close to his heart. "You do not vote right if you are not voting for either the Left wing party, or the feminists" he said. This struck us as something important, since they are so dependent on the way our country is ruled which we are not in the same extent. To learn more about how people think politically, we went to Almedalen. Read more about this further down!

“SynBio for Kids” Guide with iGEM Warwick

Together with iGEM Warwick we created a guide for future iGEM teams to choose the right path in creating tools to teach synthetic biology to children. The guide includes the experience of the team of iGEM Warwick and iGEM Stockholm in education and creation of a feasible medium. We included an overview of current tools available and the challenges that are faced in the educational system at the moment when teaching engineering science. We hope future iGEM Teams can benefit from this important collaboration. Download the "SynBio for Kids" guide here.


Being present is important as an iGEM team, to provide a bridge between society and the iGEM project. It is important not only for society to gain increased knowledge about the competition, but also to broaden the horizons for synthetic biology as a field within the globalised community. We hosted many events as a team, to gain knowledge within how to successfully make people aware off iGEM’s existence, but also to get some valuable insights in how people find our project. Find out more about the events that we hosted below!

Women in Science


  • Vilma Lagebro: iGEM Stockholm, Biotechnology Bachelor student
  • Puck Norell: iGEM Stockholm, BS in Biomedicine, working within industry
  • Andrea Montano Montes: Biomedical Analyst, Toxicology Master
  • Michaela Asp: PhD student at KTH, scientist at Science for Life Laboratory
  • Helene Andersson Svahn: Professor in Nanobiotechnology, KTH

Research should be an open environment - a heterogeneous landscape filled with professionals from different genders, ethnicities and religious beliefs. However, today this is not fully true, with a skewed ratio of men and women within academic research. Together with Women in Science, a non-profit organization at Karolinska Institutet aiming at providing networks for women within academia, the Human Practices team hosted an event for women and non-binary high school students to talk about how crooked the path can be in becoming a scientist, and how important it is with women in science. The event was interactive, and we created a dialog between the speakers and the audience which resulted in a great discussion. The audience was asked what they thought of when hearing “female scientist”.

Coffee hours (four in total)

If you want to create a forum for experience sharing and discussion, you have to provide it with a lot of coffee and fika. Luckily for us, the International Committee at the Medical Students Association (Karolinska Institutet) has loads of it, and they are not afraid to share it! We had the opportunity, through their sponsorship, to host four coffee hours where we talked about synthetic biology and our project with interested people. Together with Merck & Co, we gave students the chance to mingle with companies and extend their network. We also got a chance to promote our Ambassador program and managed to get a few on board. Collaborating with iGEM teams is important - but collaboration with other parts of society is also important in order to spread the word of iGEM.

Limits of life Symposium, together with iGEM Uppsala and Lund


  • Per Sandin, Associate Professor and lecturer in bioethics and environmental ethics, SLU (Uppsala)
  • Hannes Sjöblad, Co-founder of the Swedish biohacker association “Bionyfiken” and entrepreneur
  • Jens Sundström, member of the Swedish Genetics Committee and Senior Lecturer at the Institution for Plant Biology at SLU (Uppsala)
  • Marie Åsberg, professor emerita at Karolinska Institutet within Psychology
  • Will Wright, iGEM European Ambassador 2018

Together with iGEM Uppsala and iGEM Lund, we held a whole day event on the theme “Limits of Life”. The event was planned during several months, and it was a great way of getting to know other teams, to learn how to collaborate on a more professional level. The first session was about our limits as humans and how to manage and prevent stress both as students and also as members of iGEM teams. The second session continued on the theme of limits, but this time on the ethical and technological limits of biohacking. The event was open for the public and focused on the dialogue between the audience and speakers. This was kept through an online system where people could write questions directly to the moderator. Open discussions between the audience and the speakers blossomed, and it was a great way of including society in a discussion about life on a individual or societal level as well as on molecular level.

We were able to find sponsors for the location as well as the food provided during the event, with the help of Naturvetarna, a trade union for people working within life science.

General Outreach


We created an Ambassador program for people who are interested in spreading the project beyond our peers and team members, in order to reach out to a greater community. Our goal was to increase the knowledge about iGEM Stockholm in general, to make it easier for future teams to establish a better relation with the universities in Stockholm. We thought the ambassador program to be a win-win situation - people interested in the project get a greater insight in what it means to be an iGEMer, while we build a greater foundation and platform for the iGEM Stockholm teams to build on. We got great inputs from the iGEM ambassadors, which proved to be very helpful when building our presentation and the children's book.

Blog (

Our project does not have any boundaries, and we intend to keep it that way through inviting people to read about our project, as well as interesting meetings with people. The blog was a great way of reaching out to the greater community. Research is done for the benefit of all individuals, and therefore it is important for us to show what we are doing and thinking. To integrate people’s opinions and views we adapt our project to fit all of us. However, it is still important to know that we all do not have to think and feel the same - that’s the beauty with a heterogeneous society, which sometimes can be hard to adapt to in a Human Practices point of view. Examples of topics that the blog touched upon is whether we as iGEM teams are as open as we want to be, and the importance to agreeing to disagree.

BBQ with Uppsala

It is important to connect with other teams, not only to see your project from a new and different perspectives, but also to learn how to work together. Research is an interdisciplinary field, where collaboration with other teams around the world is essential. It strengthens the importance of your research through increasing your network of peers. Therefore, we had two BBQ’s with the Uppsala iGEM team during the summer. It was especially valuable to keep good contact with the iGEM Uppsala team, since they shared many similarities to us. They are also a big team, and were therefore also sharing some common problems. This was valuable since we could discuss our difficulties in the lab, but also within team management.

Attended Events

It is important to connect with other teams, not only to see your project from a new and different perspectives, but also to learn how to work together. Research is an interdisciplinary field, where collaboration with other teams around the world is essential. It strengthens the importance of your research through increasing your network of peers. Therefore, we had two BBQ’s with the Uppsala iGEM team during the summer. It was especially valuable to keep good contact with the iGEM Uppsala team, since they shared many similarities to us. They are also a big team, and were therefore also sharing some common problems. This was valuable since we could discuss our difficulties in the lab, but also within team management.

MedTech Evening 2018

Being in the beginning of our journey, we felt overwhelmed of how many directions our project could take. Therefore, we jumped on any opportunity to get some more insight into different mindsets and strategies to make a successful project and product. MedTech Evening, an event where students can meet interesting medtech companies and organizations, was a splendid opportunity to listen to people from different parts of the medical technological field. It gave us the opportunity to mingle with both students and professionals, but also to discuss what the world is lacking that we could bring to the world through iGEM Stockholm.


The Careers in Health and Science Exposition (CHaSE) is a career exposition and fair organized by the Medical Student’s Association, Karolinska Institutet. It is an event that is held in the heart of campus , and was a great opportunity to talk about iGEM and the team in general, to increase the knowledge about the competition and synthetic biology. We had our own table at the CHaSE fair to promote iGEM. Since CHaSE is a hotspot for students in academia, it was a valuable crowd for us to pitch ideas to and find collaborations at.

BioBrick tutorial Copenhagen

In April, we were invited for a weekend of BioBrick tutorials, organized by DTU Copenhagen Biobuilders. The aim was to learn more about how to work with BioBricks, and to perform 3A assembly. The event was a splendid opportunity for us to meet other Nordic teams, and it led to us getting into contact with iGEM Uppsala and iGEM Lund, which we later did a collaboration with. See the event Limits of Life for more information!

NiC Lund

Sometimes the passion to do great in iGEM does not come from the pure urge to do research, but from the urge to prove that someone is wrong. From the very beginning of our project we believed in our idea and we believed that presenting it to others gave us valuable insight in how to shape the project into something that was out of the box. Therefore, we went to Lund in the beginning of the summer to present our project idea for the other Nordic iGEM teams at the annual Nordic iGEM Conference. This was also a great opportunity to meet other teams and discuss problems. On the conference we presented our project during a poster session and a presentation and got valuable feedback from the judges and our newly found peers.

Almedalen 2018

Almedalen is the biggest political event in Sweden, hosted annually for the past 50 years with 4311 different events during 8 days. It is a summer hotspot for politicians and companies, with 45 000 people joining together for open discussions about the future of society. Facing election year in Sweden, we felt that it was important to go there and ask people what they think about synthetic biology and Biotic Blue. The Human Practices team got a lot of insight in how people outside research may think about Biotic Blue, and how important it is to be transparent in the iGEM work. Specifically, we found our conversation with the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB) interesting. Their task is to deal with all the radioactive waste from nuclear power plants in Sweden in a safe way. We discussed the importance of inviting the society to the discussion of how different technologies are used. We also talked about safety and how important the trust from the community is when using new technologies. We left Almedalen thinking about the main purpose of evolving and creating new solutions, and what industries that need to be thought of when going from ideation to implementation.

Global Impact Day

We were invited to attend the Global Impact Day with focus on Environmental Awareness in Kista (Stockholm), hosted by the AlMaghrib Institute. The AlMaghrib Institute works for premier Islamic education and has branches all over the world. The same event was held on several locations on the same day. At the event, we got to educate the public about the problems and danger that we are faced with if not treating pharmaceuticals in wastewater. We got to show the community what a group of 20 students can do together with synthetic biology, and how they can contribute to solve a persistent problem in line with iGEM guidelines.

The team talked about:

  • Creating awareness about the problem of pharmaceuticals in wastewater
  • Introduce the synthetic biology approach on a basic level that we have worked on (enzyme engineering and its implementation with our experimental work and product design)
  • Providing them with the take home message of not throwing pharmaceuticals in the sink or flushing them down

What the audience asked and/or what we learnt:

  • General questions on our project
  • How can we discard pharmaceuticals safely?
  • How to engage an audience with explaining a complex process in very simple and understandable terms
  • Learning about our knowledge gaps and how to tackle the problem in providing the audience with answers

KTH opportunities fund, workshop

Being receivers of the KTH Opportunities Fund, we were invited to a workshop together with other receivers of financial support from KTH Opportunities Fund. The different projects were presented by each of the recipients, and we got the opportunity to record a movie about the project. We also got valuable information on how the KTH Opportunities Fund work, and the possibilities about becoming a KTH alumni in the future. It was a great success for us as a student group to receive financial support, and it was also a great confirmation for us that our project is thought to be feasible and successful.

SU synthetic biology course

We were invited by Samuel Flores from Stockholm University to give a presentation about our project. Our audience were students taking an introductory course in synthetic biology and 3D molecular modelling. It was the first time we presented our project to an audience with students that are well informed in what synthetic biology and iGEM are. They were very engaged with our idea and interested in our solution as well as the concepts of iGEM. We talked with Samuel about future educational collaborations and the promotion of iGEM at Stockholm University.

The Crastina conference in Eskilstuna 2018

The Crastina conference is a meeting of the Crastina community, which is a collection of people working within science communication. Our team was invited to the conference after speaking to the founder Olle Bergman at the Nordic iGEM Conference in Lund.

We spoke about iGEM from a communication perspective:

  • What kind of information we want to convey - who are iGEM Stockholm? What is our aim?
  • The team’s demographics
  • Tools that we use
  • How we handle the ”social media relay” which happens each year

The “social media relay” refers to the inherited social media account that can only be used during the time that the team is active. The year after, it will be given to the next year’s team which could mean that the interest for the page could fluctuate due to different ways of using it.

Since everyone attending the conference had different experiences within communication in science, the central part of the conference was to share experience, analyse and learn from these different experiences. The conference gave us useful perspectives on modern science communication from the varied experiences present at the conference. People were also interested to know more about Biotic Blue and the competition, which gave us the opportunity to pitch the idea and spread the word.

Articles About Us

Article in Medicor (1st issue 2018)

One fact that we want to stress as much as possible is that our project, as well as research in general, is for societies around the globe. Research has always been the result of trying to understand how things work, both outside and within the human and animal body. It is also conducted to find solutions and ways to improve life. Why conducting research if not for the benefit of us, or the planet? In the first issue of Medicor (the magazine founded by the Medical Student’s Association, Karolinska Institutet), we stress the importance of diversity in research and how engaging the public will lead to a successful project.

Article in Nya Åland (13th of August)

We believe that it is of great importance to reach out to parts of our society that are more affected or live nearby the problems we are trying to solve. One way of reaching out to these people was to contact Nya Åland, one of two newspapers on Åland. Åland is an island located in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. We told the newspaper about our project and how we want to tackle the situation that the Baltic Sea is facing, where antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals could impact the aquatic and marine ecosystem.

Interview for Libération (5th of September)

In September, a journalist from the French daily newspaper Libération contacted us regarding meeting up for an interview. The journalist was Amaelle Guiton, a journalist focusing on reporting on political and geopolitical issues relating to digitization, data protection and privacy. Amaelle was interested in talking about iGEM and biohacking, whether they could work together or if they are separated from each other.

Amaelle Guiton, (c) Pierre Le Bruchec