Team:EPFL/Public Engagement

iGEM EPFL 2018

Education & Public Engagement

CAPOEIRA aimed to involve the public in meaningful and unique ways. We aimed to sensibilize and create awareness of SynBio through diverse platforms, bring different stakeholders together, highlight ethical questions and finally discuss the democratization of engineered biological systems.

Figure 1.A Art Exhibition

During our study of the ethical aspects about CAPOEIRA, after some brainstorming sessions we realised that Art could be a tool to link the bridge between the general public and scientific research, focusing on biology in particular. We believed that this was a great opportunity to spread awareness of synthetic biology and biology to an audience in a way that is appealing and less intimidating.

We got in touch with Veneta Valeria Gerganova, responsible of the “Figure 1.A” exposition in Lausanne, Switzerland. The aim of the exhibition is to celebrate the beauty of science and all the hard work behind it through images, submitted by members of the Faculty of Biology and Medicine at UNIL. A selection of photos selected by a multidisciplinary jury and then portrayed in the “La Sonnette” Gallery, in the City Center of Lausanne, opened to the general public. Following this discussion inspired, we created a photo contest among 2018 iGEM Team, and photos that we collected during the competition are exposed on our wiki. This meeting also highlighted the importance of visuals for our project presentation, shared images, graphics, colors, layout of ideas, legends, etc. It led us to realize the importance of visuals at first sight during a presentation, poster presentation, and we hence payed more attention to these attributes in the designs that we created later on for CAPOEIRA.

Planète Santé

Planète Santé (“Healthy Planet” in English) is an annual exhibition event that unites distinguished institutions and the major health stakeholders in the French-speaking part of Switzerland to host a four-day event of experiences, emotion, interactivity for the general public to address questions of health of the modern world.

The event featured innovations in healthcare as well as educating the public about health-related issues. Student representation from EPFL and our neighbouring University of Lausanne (UNIL) was substantial. University environment here seeks to educate the public about the impact the healthcare industry will have in the near future.

For our project, the unity of all the stakeholders in healthcare exchanging information and entering fruitful discussions was an insight. In that spirit, we attended a roundtable discussion at the event concerning our project in order to develop an overview of the needs of cancer treatment from the different stakeholders titled “Cancer : The Indispensable Partnership Between Fundamental Research and Patients”

During the Fight: The life of a patient that undergoes cancer changes in an instant, and a large part of that change is about adapting to the new perception of life. This includes an introduction of new people that surrounds the patient and plays an integral part in the patient’s life, such as nurses, psychologists and doctors. Therefore the interaction and relationship between the patient and these individuals become very vital during cancer treatment.

After the Fight: The return of a cancer patient from treatment to normal life may not always be easiest transition, especially because more often that not, there is a lack of support that allows the patient to reintegrate into society, and this is an equally important part of cancer treatment that requires research and attention.

Patients as a Focus: There should be central focus on the patient among all the disciplines as well as pharmaceutical companies that are working on cancer treatment. It is a human endeavour, and should be approached with humanity, the big data that computational oncology requires is data that can only be obtained by interaction with the patient, and will lead to algorithms, robots that will augment the intelligence that aides clinicians and researchers to treat the patients, but not replace that humanity.

iGEM Summer School Koniz

We had the opportunity to collaborate with the Könitz school , near Bern in Switzerland, to integrate synthetic biology into their Summer School program on the 5th of July at our laboratory at EPFL. This one-week summer school allows about twenty students to discover our campus, the facilities and laboratories as well as the research conducted. Within this framework, we offered them a workshop on Synthetic Biology, consisting of a presentation explaining field, the iGEM competition as well as our project CAPOEIRA. Then we guided them towards a basic experimental practice of synthetic biology based on an Educational Kit designed by last year’s EPFL iGEM Team.

This first presentation allowed us to target the pedagogical elements to be highlighted in our presentation to capture attention as well as the key technical points that require more precision for the audience's understanding. We also took note of areas where we could improve our presentation skills with regards to the fluency, rhythm and clarity of explanations. We got to present in front of an audience for the first time, which highlighted our strengths and areas of improvement in presentation skills!



The team was able to attend the Horizons of Cancer Biology and Therapy 2018 conference organised by the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC) hosted in Swiss Conference Centre. During the conference we got the opportunity to present our project through our poster and meet leading clinicians and researchers from all over the world that are also trying to find new cures to cancer. Furthermore, through numerous research presentations from experts around the world we were able to see what kind of treatments and ideas they are currently testing to target and treat cancer.

Symposium of Citizen Sciences Association

The 3rd Symposium of Citizen Sciences Association was held on the 13th of September themed “For a Responsible Research”. This event, which was the conclusion of a cycle of symposiums from 2017 through 2018, proposed to share and discuss new models of scientific research. The aim was to moderate discussions between the organisations and institutions involved, stakeholders (economic, political and public) and scientific researchers.

Among the different problems discussed, several of them gave us the opportunity to highlight CAPOEIRA in different ways. One of the areas was personalised medicine and it was interesting to understand the public point of view regarding the subject and to open a dialog with them.

Ethical Conference, Grenoble

Among the different problems discussed, several of them gave us the opportunity to highlight CAPOEIRA in different ways. One of the areas was personalised medicine and it was interesting to understand the public point of view regarding the subject and to open a dialog with them.