Human Practices - Silver

Synthetic biology and the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition is incredible. We seize every opportunity to promote synthetic biology and our projects. In the two years since our team was founded, we have hosted so many events such as open days, talks and booth display to engage the public in our work, iGEM and synthetic biology.You can get more detailed information on the Public Engagement & Education page.

2.Click here to learn more about High School iGEM Guide
High School iGEM Guide

When we promoted our CUPID project in high schools, we also aimed to help the high school iGEM teams setting up their own project. Their feedback showed thatthe problems which high school students encountered were different from the university students when setting up the iGEM team and project. Therefore, we summarized and analyzed several common problems and came up with some solutions. We hope that it will be used as helpful and general guidelines for high school iGEM teams. Furthermore, we continually kept very closely connections with two high school iGEM teams. We have helped them by validating feasibility of our recommendations, providing necessary background knowledge and experimental technique support and eventually work together with them for the 2018 iGEM competition. To find out more details, please clicks here: Integrated Human Practices.

Common Problems

In our survey, we found that different high school iGEM teams encountered similar problems and difficulties when they started establishing their iGEM teams and projects.


For high school students, it is actually difficult to convince the public to invest their projects without school funding. The competition registration fees ($4,500) and the Jamboree registration fee ($695) in fact are a huge cost for high school students, not including all other expenses like air tieckts and local accommodation.

Here, we listed out some of the major costs in order to prepare the high school iGEM teams ahead before deciding to participating in the iGEM competition.

Suggestions and Solutions:

High school iGEMers may be able to raise fundings from the following aspects:


Awards especially received by the students from international competitions or activities also promote the public reputations and future development of high schools. Therefore, it will be essential to convince your school about the project and get their support. Moreover, as far as we know, some schools even set aside funds to encourage their students to propose feasible scientific plans. Therefore, getting to know the policy and seek support from the school are strongly recommend as the first action for high school igemers.


It is a good way to seek external funding from companies. Although it is difficult to get large amounts of financial support, it is still possible to get some discounts or sponsored items that is useful for the team. If the company is interested in your project or the iGEM, they may get back to you for more detailed information. If you can convince them that your team has the ability to achieve the proposed goals ans even can promote the international reputations of the company via supporting your team , some companies might be willing to support the project.

You are suggested to make a list of all the sponsoring companies and keep in touch with them via emails or phone calls. You have to always keep the idea in your mind that what your project and team can bring to the company and why they have to support your project. With these questions in mind and swipe your position with the company will helps you to better understand how to efficiently get support from companies.

It is important to note that if you can make good publicity for the company, you are more likely to get more funding. Therefore, it may be helpful if you are willing to do some publicity for the company on your promotional campaign or social media such as including the logo of the company in your poster or banner. (It is definitely not easy to get external funding from companies, but don't feel discouraged. Keep trying, you will get positive feedbacks.)

In addition, you can also get some corporate sponsorships that can be found on the iGEM official website. The followings are using the current year as an example:

1.IGEM 2018 teams can receive 20 kb of FREE custom DNA or Alt-R? CRISPR Genome Editing products from IDT.

2. GenScript offers a team grant opportunity worth $4000 in products and support, as well as 20% off on selected products and services for all teams in 2018.

3.MathWorks provides free MATLAB software license and technical supports to all of 2018 iGEM teams.

4. Opentrons plans to give 10 iGEM teams the automation of severals most common protocols that has done as part of the 2018 iGEM competition.

5.Promega offers 10 iGEM teams across the world up to $2,000 in free Promega products.

The information of these sponsors can be found on the official website of the iGEM Sponsors page (http://xxxx(year) Therefore, it is important to check the updated information from time to time from the official website.

3.University Team

Although it is difficult to get financial assistance directly from the university teams since they also face the similar funding difficulties, it is a good idea to ask for sharing their equipments and facilities needed for your project from the university. You can contact the nearest university teams around to ask for sharing their equipments and in the field.

4.Social Fundraising

It is also possible to raise a certain amount of money through social fundraising, but the object needs to be competitive. In general, it will be easier to get succeeded in a group of parents or alumni.

Persuasion is one of the most important ability no matter where you raise funds from. Keep the following questions that help to better prepare yourself for funding applications:

1.What is your goal?

2.Do you have the ability to achieve your goals?

3. Do you have a viable plan to achieve your goals?


As a high school teams, it is obvious that they usually lackthe necessary equipments and facilities for performing the reuiqred experiments of the project, when compared with the university team. In addition, many equipments require further relavent training before usage, including obtaining the qualification and permission to use them correctly and safely.

In general, many high schools in China and properly much similar in major of other countries in the world, are not well equipped with biological laboratories as universities or colleges. Therefore , it is challenge for high school igemers to perform experiments according to the design of their projects.

Here below, we have listed the most commonly needed equipments that are usually indispensable in the iGEM experiments (may need to be adjusted according to the actual situation).


Although it is not easy for high school, most of the equipment that must be used in the iGEM project can be easily found in universities nearby. So it is a good idea to plan your own equipment earlier and ask for help from the university students. Similarly, if there are some devices that require the ability or qualifications that are difficult for high school students, you can also seek help from the university around.

In general, it is much easier to get help from the lab where your PI (mentor and advisor) work. In addition, you can also get help from university iGEM teams through collaborations. On the official website of iGEM, there is a collaboration page (http://xxxx(year) where teams can share information about how they wish to collaborate to reach all of the 2018 iGEM teams.


Compared with university students, high school students may face more challenges and difficulties in the knowledge preparation during the competition. Through our survey of some high school teams, we found that their knowledge difficulties may come from these aspects: theoretical knowledge, experimental skills, wiki, modelling, art design. Therefore, we provide some specific recommendations and solutions based on these aspects.

Theoretical Knowledge


To obtain the basic understandings of synthetic biology, the most convenient way is to ask if your PI (instructor, advisor) is willing to take you through a relavent teaching course. Besides, online courses are good choice which allows you easily access to many related boutique courses on MOOC (massive open online courses).

After equipped with the basic theoretical knowledge, you may also need to read extensively about wiki pages of previous teams to better understand iGEM projects.

Experimental Skills


To learn the necessary basic experimental skills, get training in the lab for a certain period of time under the guidance of a experienced researcher will be extremely helpful. You may get help from your PI (instructor, advisor) or some other university teams. Majority of the university teams are willing to provide help and support for the high school teams when completing their own experiments. (For example, we have offered a two-day bio-experimental skills training course for a local high school iGEM team. More detailed information can be found on our Public Engagement & Education page.)



In order to meet the award requirements of iGEM competition, there are some sub-pages on the wiki that must be completed. Fulfill the relevant requirements on the page of iGEM's Pages for Evaluating Criteria for Medals and Awards (http://xxxx(year) In addition to understanding the requirements, you also need to have or learn some basic knowledge about how to write web page(html css js). It might be helpful to watch some of the demonstrate videos or you can go to the web production forum. After you acquired basic knowledge of web page writing, refer to previous excellent wikis as representative examples to understand the good framework so it will promote you to write a better wiki.



In a way, the requirements of dry experiment may be more strict than the wet experiment. In simple terms, it might be more difficult to do dry experiments than wet experiments. The knowledge of mathematics and passion are two key factors for computer modeling.

Additionally, in terms of modeling, it is relatively easier to understand statistics model and structural model. Statistics model is based on statistics, and is designed to interpret data and derive its inherent biological laws. The most important knowledge that you need is statistical analysis.Structural model is based on some basic laws of motion to formula and solve a variety of differential equations. For example, if you need to understand the diffusion process of ethylene in space. Thereafter, you need to build up some differential equations to describe the motion process. The basis of these models is based on studies of existing phenomenas, such as gas dynamics, fluid dynamics, thermo dynamics, and so on. Therefore, it's more difficult than statistics modeling because it requires higher demand on your understandings of the model.

However, no one is able to master all of the modeling methods, even the best data analysts or physicists. Therefore, from my understanding of iGEM, you should pay more attentions to the structural model and the statistical methods for basic data interpretation , because your experiments are unlikely to have large-scale data unless your project requiresa combination of public databases.

Thus, regarding to the flowchart of learning, we suggest that that two basic courses:calculus and linear algebra. They are basically the corner stones for modeling. In addtion, programming languages is also important. We recommend two useful and commonly used computer languages: Python and R language. There are many python IDEs and editors, such as pycharm. R is a useful scripting language specifically designed for statistical analysis.

Art Design


In iGEM competitions, skills for art design is absolutely required. We list out the sections where art design may be needed including official requirements and instructions (if any).

To make these designs looks better, you may need to learn some basic skills of common designing and knowledge of computer software such as Photoshop and Illustrator. You can easily find a lot of graphic and tutorial videos online. .

In fact, it may be wise to collect as many members with different back grounds as possible when recruiting your teams. The type of player you need to have in your team:

?A member of the basic synthetic biology theory and basic experimental skills

?A member who has a web page writing foundation or is willing to learn to write a web page.

?A member with a mathematical foundation who can or is willing to learn mathematical modeling

?A member who can perform basic operations on art design software and is interested in art design

?A member who can speak English, able to plan activities, schedule the team, and be a team representative to get in touch with different organizations (including sponsorship)


For high school students If any equipments needs to shared from the universities,it is a good idea to plan it ahead. It is important to have a clear schedule and the specific division of the work is always necessary. How to arrange the time reasonably and efficiently is a question that every team should seriously consider.

3.Click here to learn more about Survey
Survey: Public Understanding of Desertification and Synthetic Biology

Desertification means land degradation in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid areas caused by various factors include climate variability and human activities. [1] Nowadays, desertification has become one of the major and critical environmental issues that is currently widely concerned around the world. [2] It affects the livelihoods of millions of people.

According to the ecosystems and human well-being. 10-20% of drylands of the earth are already degraded. About 50,000 to 70,000 square kilometers of land become desert each year on the earth, particularly the most rapid development of desertification occurs in tropical savannah and temperate semi -arid grassland areas. Desertification also has strong adverse impacts on non-dry lands as well. Affected areas sometimes may be located thousands of kilometers away from the desertified areas. The biophysical impacts include dust storms, downstream flooding, impairment of global carbon sequestration capacity, and regional and global climate change.[3]

Therefore, no matter dry land or non-dry land, desertification is regarded as one of the biggest environmental challenges of today, and the management and control of desertification is imminent.

Our project CUPID is committed to take the advantage of synthetic biology, system biology and metabolic engineering to provide a brand new aspect for desertification control. In addition, we act actively in dialoguing with the public to attract attentions to the problem of global desertification, and promote our CUPID project and synthetic biology.

Methodology and Procedure

We questionnaire, we carefully designed eleven questions in the survey. We distributed the questionnaires entitled "Public Cognition Survey on Desertification and the CUPID Projects" to the public during the Bauhinia Festival of Science 2018 (See our Public Engagement & Education page page for exciting events at our Bauhinia Festival of Science). Over 300 individuals participated in the survey. It covered a wide range of population from different background and education levelsincluding teenagers seniors and eddy. After reading and analysis of these questionnaires, we summarized the results in several charts in order to make our investigation more clearly and vividly.

Presentation and results
Public Understandings of the Desertification Status in China


More than half of the people who participated in the questionnaire (69.6%) believe that current desertification status in China is very serious. Whereas, 28.8% and 1.5% of the people think that China's current desertification status is generally or not serious respectively.

We statistics on the part of people who think China is sufffering sever desertification about their attitude towards the development of desertification in China now.


More than half of the people who participated in the questionnaire (69.6%) believe that China's current desertification status is very serious. Nearly half (45.3%) of them believes that the current status of desertification is gradually improving,1/5 ( 19.9%) believe that the current status of desertification has not changed much, and a quarter (24.3%) believe that desertification is gradually deteriorating. Only 1/10 (10.5%) of people know nothing about the development trend of land desertification in China.

What is others people thinking about the desertification in China nowadays?


Nearly half (53.2%)of public believes that the current status of desertification in China is gradually improved, and one-fourth (25.3%)of public believes that the current status has not changed much, whereas 12.6% believes that the status is gradually deteriorating.

Among the people who participated in the questionnaire, they have high exceptions for the current desertification control, accounting for less than a quarter (18.1%), but the vast majority (74.6%) believe that it is going to be a long-time project against the desertification and environment improvement.


In general, the data above indicates that majority of the public understand the current status of desertification in China and is optimistic about the taken actions for desertification in China.

Public Attitude Towards the Cupid Project


Only a small numbers of people (0.8%) from this questionnaire have not heard of "genetic modification , synthetic biology and "iGEM". One-fifth (23.6%) people have heard of genetic modification and iGEM, and nearly half (48.8%) know what is synthetic biology.


A majority of the people who participated in the questionnaire (91.5%) supported the application of desertification control. Only 8.5% people was against the usage of synthetic biology to desertification. More than half of them [56.8% (For), 54.5% (Against)] have heard of "iGEM" or "synthetic biology." In addition, we have also collected some suggestions from the public about the application of genetic transformed cyanobacteria as a bio-reactor to produce synthetic cellulose to increase water retention in the desert for achieve better survival and growth of plants against desertification. Here below, we have selected some representative views:


The above data shows that the public has less understanding of iGEM and synthetic biology when compared to transgenic organisms.However, the majority of the public do support the application of synthetic biology in to the actions towards desertification control.


Through our survey, we can draw the following conclusions:

1.Most people have realized the seriousness of desertification and believed that immediate action of desertification control is necessary.

2.Most people are optimistic about desertification control (but also believe that desertification control and improvement take a long time)

3. Most people have heard of genetic engineering and synthetic biology, some of whom have a certain degrees of understanding.

4. After having a basic understanding of our CUPID project, most people support on using synthetic biology as a new tool by a combination with other current approaches to combat desertification and look forward to know the progress and results of the project.

[1]According to the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, signed in Paris in October 1994.

[2]According to the statistics of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)


4.Contact Us

Taken together, guidelines and suggestions for high school iGEM team are summarized and list above. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us by email, we are willing to provide further supports andhelps to you. ? (official mailbox) (communication member mailbox)