To create an accessible and relevant outreach program we followed the Outreach Planning Guide. An overview version of the guide can be found on the Database Page page
William & Mary is celebrating 100 years of women and co-education on campus. This meant our team had the unique opportunity to connect with alumni from a diverse array of fields to share our research. We wanted to excite an older generation of women who did not have a background in bioengineering, and encourage them to stay connected with campus and our synthetic biology research.
Evaluating Interest & Understanding
Knowing our alumni come from a diverse array of majors we moved forward with the assumption that all attendees had at least a highschool/intro level understanding of biology. For women without a background in biology we wanted to generate excitement for our project by describing potential applications of our work. We knew some of the alumni visiting would have backgrounds in biology due to bachelors or master degrees in biology, we decided to speak with them one on one and more deeply about the nuances of our project. As SynBio is such a recent field, even those with biology background might not have not encountered some of the bioengineering concepts we used, so we decided to treat each conversation as a unique learning experience and adapt our poster presentation based on the interests and background of the alumni.
Consider How to Connect
We were asked to create a poster for the event, and knowing that our audience was a mix of backgrounds we created the poster as an opportunity to display our data and act as a guide for our conversations. We tried to create visuals on the graph which would help develop a baseline understanding of our project, and we used the text to dive deepening into our project. Our primary method of connection was going to be the individualized conversations we had with each alumni. These kinds of connections cannot be scripted because they are based on the interests and background of each alumni.
Search the Database & Adapt
Although we had a strong idea of what we wanted our presentation to look like we wanted advice on how to structure the poster presentation. The event was three hours and beyond the emphasis on women presenters we weren't sure how to manage the evening. We used the Database to find other poster presentations and loved what Manchester 2016 did during their EuroScience Open Forum. The team presented their poster as a large group emphasizing the importance of their multidisciplinary research. After reading about this we determined a component of our presentation needed to include all the women on the team, and that we needed to cover the importance of having multidisciplinary involvement in our project. Our work is not possible without computer scientists, biologists, chemists and mathematicians and our presentation emphasized that.
On September 21st, William and Mary hosted a poster presentation as part of the school’s “Women Weekend.” Our team presented our iGEM project, and had the honor of talking extensively approximately 20 of the over 100 attendees. All 100 attendees were able to review our poster during the walking dinner provided. As the attendees stopped by our poster, we would explain our project in the detail that best fit the attendee. Many of the women did not have an extensive biology background, and thus we focused heavily on applications of both our project and the field of SynBio. On the other hand, a few women had advanced experience in STEM and one woman we talked to had a PhD in biology. These women were able to ask perceptive and astute questions regarding our project. They were amazed by how far techniques in biology have progressed.
Reflect & Record
The event was a fantastic experience for the team and the alumni alike. Many of the women were blown away by what our lab was able to accomplish, and several of them expressed how proud they were of their alma mater. The women with backgrounds in STEM in particular helped provide a lot of perspective to our first year team members. This year we are using a method called 3G Assembly, many of our new members have only ever used this method of DNA assembly. After talking to some of the alumni who were familiar with the Golden-Gate and Gibson Assembly methods we more fully understood just how lucky we were to be using this new technology.
While the women we talked to were very enthusiastic about our project, many of them were not particularly interested in the details of the science. Rather than confuse them with unnecessary information, we boiled our project into a few short, easily understandable sentences, and spent most of the time on applications of the project in various fields including medicine and conservation biology. We were still able to have meaningful conversations with all of the attendees and hearing their interests in the potential in vivo application of our project confirmed our choice to switch from a chemical inducer system to a temperature sensitive inducer as discussed in our IHP.