Team:IIT-Madras/Public Engagement

iGEM Collaborations Page

The Language Project


When our team members approached the public to talk about synthetic biology and our project we faced an unanticipated barrier. A good number of people were not only unaware of recent developments in the field that make synthetic biology possible; but also could not speak or understand the language, most scientific research is communicated in- English. India is a diverse country with 22 official languages and only 12.18% of the people understand English (2001 census). Synthetic biology is a recent and unique field that can invite several ethical questions and therefore public engagement is of the essence. For effective public involvement, we need the audience to understand the science behind synthetic biology. Hence we decided to design an introductory course on the basics of SynBio in several Indian languages.
The graph doesn't depict anything under English Speakers because the number of first language English residents is 2,00,000 or 200,000; too few to be depicted on a million-to-one scale.


Source: Indian Census, Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India

map of India w/ languages

But the need for a Language Project ran much deeper, as we soon realised. Science in general- and biology in particular- are relevant to every person. The inquiry of how life came to be and our quest to understand and deal with its elegant complexity must be inclusive and universal. India is a vast country that has never shown a dearth of brilliance and potential. However, most of the times, its inhabitants just...happen to not speak or be comfortable with English. This introductory course on synthetic biology (originally in 9 major languages spoken in India) aimed at lay people of all age groups and all walks of life, is our humble contribution to the ever-growing revolution of bringing science to all.
The languages we’ve made content available on so far are Bengali, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu.

School Visits

School visits are an important part of educational outreach programmes as this involves inspiring young minds. With the aim of increasing curiosity and enthusiasm for synthetic biology among school kids, we decided to conduct sessions in 4 schools in Chennai. We wanted this to be a fruitful and memorable experience for the school students. Biotechnology is a very interesting area and its advancements are numerous.

Research Magazine

The students of iGEM-IIT Madras realized the rising popularity of popular science and decided to venture into this by writing about new and upcoming areas of scientific research. This inspired many of our non-iGEM peers as well and with a sufficient number of articles, we launched a research magazine called ‘Synkranti’ for the students of the Department of Biotechnology of our university. The name derives from Synthetic Biology and Kranti which is a Sanskrit word that means revolution. The first edition of the magazine being initiated by iGEM is a special issue with focus on “synthetic biology”.

Workshop and Lecture Series

Biotechnology is the broad discipline where one creates new technology and applications on existing biological processes and systems in order to make something useful. The department of Biotechnology at the Indian Institute of Technology at Madras has been striving at spreading its research in the various sub fields of Biotechnology since 2004 like Bioprocess Engineering, Medical Biotechnology, Computational Biology, Protein Bioinformatics, Cancer Biology, and Plant Biotechnology. Team iGEM-IIT Madras forms one of the primary undergraduate research organs of the department.
Being aspiring biotechnologists, we decided to educate our fellow undergraduates in various subfields of Biotechnology from other universities in Tamil Nadu with the help of professors that have expertise in these various fields. A two-day workshop and lecture series were planned that tried to incorporate as many diverse fields as possible like plant biotechnology, enzyme biology, bioprocess engineering, medical biotechnology, systems biology, protein bioinformatics, and computational neuroscience. The contents were split into the 2 days of the workshop based on the broad criterion of being computationally intensive or not.

SynBio Journal Club

While we were doing multiple things like the wet lab project ADaPtat1on, Software project ChassiDex and the language project, we realized we, as a team, were lacking something. IIT Madras has a huge population of students pursuing Ph.D. and Mtech/ MS. Yet there is very little discussion with PGs and UGs regarding science.
Dr. Karthik Raman1 realized this need too and to promote a platform for discussion about science and synthetic biology we, along with Dr. Raman, initiated the Journal Club. The goal of this journal club is to promote discussion about research, specifically about synthetic biology and to foster an interest in research in the undergraduates. We have had two sessions so far and hope to make it a pan-institute discussion.