Team:ICT-Mumbai/Public Engagement


Outreach Activities

Synthetic biology is converting the most abstract concepts and ideas in the human mind into reality with each passing day. However, the mindset of general public is still skeptical towards this particular field and its exemplary achievements. We, through our outreach program, aimed to remove this fear from the mind of the students and tried to invoke in them an interest for the enthralling world of synthetic biology and it's various applications. Our outreach activities involved several public lectures at various schools aimed at introducing prospective scientists to this exciting field and our project.

School Lectures

To introduce synthetic biology as well as our project, we conducted several lectures across various parts of Maharashtra, a state in India. The purpose of our outreach activity was to instill interest in students undergoing their primary education and also to create awareness of the possibilities of this field. Although our project is broadly related to the field of agriculture, we discussed concepts and applications of synthetic biology in other fields such as medicine, material science and health as well. An account of these talks is given below:

Dnyanaprakash Vidyalaya

The first outreach activity of the team started with addressing 9th standard students of Dyanaprakash Vidyalaya, Mumbai, India. The children had a basic knowledge about cells and their structure with minute insights into genetics and DNA. However, they were largely unaware about the upcoming field of synthetic biology and genetic engineering. As an exercise, the team asked students to suggest potential applications of genetic engineering based on the knowledge of genetic engineering they had just received. Out of the many answers, we got applications that are indeed being researched upon currently like - “Modifying bacteria to consume the pollutants present in Air”, “Modifying bacteria so as to be able to control it and make it do whatever you want - essentially having a bacteria Robot”. The talk organised in this school was successful given that we were able to create awareness among the students and generate interest about this field.

A student responding to questions posed by the team.

Ninad briefing the student's about our team project.

Kids’ Paradise School and Abhinav Balak Mandir

The second and third outreach activity was carried out in the rural region of Sangli, Maharashtra, India, in classes from 5th to 10th standard with an aim of creating interest among the rural children about the world of synthetic biology through our project. Mrs. Nikita Bhate (Head of Kids’ Paradise School) and Mr Mahadev Kumbhar (Head of Abhinav Balak Mandir) appreciated the efforts of the team saying that, “the attempt was a very successful one for the development of the students. It has helped students to get acquainted with this exciting field in which they would like to work in future".

Ninad interacting with students.

Ninad explaining synthetic biology concepts to students.

Podar International School

One of our team members interacted with students of 9th grade in Podar International School, Mumbai, India. The students were very interested in the topic of Genetic Engineering and Synthetic Biology and their enthusiasm was reflected in the queries they put forward such as: "Is it possible to genetically engineer Humans?" or "Is it possible to modify trees to absorb more CO2?". The principle of the school was happy that the students learnt about a new topic and encouraged such research presentations in future.

Supriya explaining the concepts of synthetic biology and genetic engineering to students in Podar International School

Students enthusiastically asking questions regarding the topic.

College Lectures

St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, India

In order to take our outreach program a step further, the team went to St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, India to interact with second year undergraduate students of Microbiology. This program was aimed at discussing the events happening in the field of synthetic biology in general and our project in particular with the students. Since the students had a basic idea about the topic, the team discussed with them about the project and its ramifications on the society. The team also gathered important feedback from the professors who were kind enough to share their feelings and enhance our knowledge on the topic.

Bhargav and Marwan explicating the project idea to the Microbiology students of St. Xavier's College.

Students and professors discussing after the talk.

Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai

While working toward our project over the last few months, we realised that our peers themselves do not have much knowledge about synthetic biology. Being a mainly chemical technology centered institute, genetic engineering and synthetic biology knowledge was limited to production of biofuels or pharmaceuticals. The team gave a talk to third year undergraduate students of the Department of Chemical Engineering, Institute of Chemical Technology. We explained our project and got to know what they think of it. The students and teachers were extremely impressed with our idea! Moreover, many students considering bio-technology and bio-engineering as their postgraduate subject, were attracted to the field.

Students listening intently to the talk on synthetic biology.

Team explaining the concept of synthetic biology to peers.