Team:Sorbonne U Paris/Public Engagement

Education and
Public Engagement

Throughout this year we managed to raise awareness on Synthetic Biology and explain about iGEM and our project through the different actions we have engaged in. Below is the list of activities we did.


iGEM at Sorbonne University

"iGEM at Sorbonne University" is the name we gave to the presentation we made during the first meeting of the department of Molecular and Cellular Biology Masters with the new students. In fact, after discussing with the directors of the masters, we were able give a presentation about Synthetic biology and the iGEM competition and briefly presented SugaRevolution. . We also explained the principles and purposes of the competition and explained the skills that they need and will acquire during this adventure. To finish, we showed that our team offers a big autonomy because our project has been fully developed by us from scratch, but we are having a great support from our supervisors. this intervention gained the interest of many students who quickly contacted us to know more about our project and to ask us how they could join the team to participate next year in the competition.

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Selling Crêpes

We promoted synthetic biology and our project at Sorbonne University by preparing and selling our succulent and delicious «crêpes». This first contact with the people on campus allowed us to make our project known by the students, the professors and the employees at the university. Through theses sales of "crêpes" we were able to discuss with professors who were interested in our project and in the iGEM competition and were very encouraging. And Claude the Chlamydomonas got so much attention from the people on campus especially during the football World Cup!

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LUPA festival

LUPA (Les Universitaires Planteurs d'Alternatives)- The Academic Planters of Alternatives is an association created in 2016 to act for sustainable development within the Faculty of Science of Sorbonne University (previously Pierre and Marie Curie University ). They act on three main points: make the university campus sustainable and environment-friendly (sorting and waste recycling for example), inform and raise awareness through conferences, debates, documentary projections and promote a more sustainable lifestyle (biological and local sale of baskets, but also by organizing responsible cultural events). The 6th of April, LUPA invited us to an event aiming to inform and raise awareness concerning synthetic biology as an ecological solution. This conference was the opportunity to present iGEM and all the solutions that synthetic biology brought to sustainable development. Then we took this opportunity to present our project which has a strong environmental impact. This, in turn, opened the students’ eyes to new possibilities to improve our society

Poster of Conference

Conference: “ What will Synthetic Biology Bring to the Future?”

Poster of Conference
Poster of the conference intitled "What will synthetic biology bring in the future?" (26th September 2018)

We organized a scientific conference to promote and offer a better understanding of synthetic biology. During the Parisian meet-up, we have discussed with the Saclay Team and the Bordeaux team. We got along very quickly and the 3 teams wanted to do a collaboration since the 3 projects are focused on the environment. So our team proposed to work together on the set up of the conference which will be about “What is the impact of synthetic biology on sustainable development?”. After several discussions, we chose to talk less about the impact of synthetic biology in sustainable development but more about the role of this science in our future. The new subject was then “What will synthetic biology bring to the future”. Our 3 teams were looking for speakers specialized in synthetic biology, in bioethics and in Law to talk about all the sides of the subject.

    Three speakers had accepted to participate:
  • - Alexei Grinbaum: Researcher in philosophy laboratories of sciences (LARSIM) in CEA-Saclay. Specialist in quantic information, he teaches ethics of sciences at ENTA, at Evry University and at Pasteur Institute. He is also a member in the commission of reflexions in ethics of research in sciences and technologies of High-tech (Cerna). He was invited by the iGEM Bordeaux team.
  • - Aliaa El Dairouty : PhD student in Public International Law at Paris Saclay University within the framework of the doctoral school “Sciences of the Human and Society”, in partnership with the Executive management of the Armament. She was invited by our team to participate in the conference. Her thesis subject concerns the apprehension of the notion of scientific uncertainty by the French and European law.
  • - Pierre Crozet : Professor at Sorbonne University and one of the supervisors of our team, he is specialized on Plant biology, more particularly he works on understanding the molecular mechanisms allowing plants to adapt themselves in stress conditions. Since 2016, he is using synthetic biology tools to improve the fixation of the carbon in Chlamydomonas which will permit to improve the use of these micro-algae in studying the cycle of Calvin-Benson.
    • The conference took place at Sorbonne University, Wednesday the 26th of September and around sixty professors and students were attending it. During the first part of the conference, speakers shared perspectives about synthetic biology and its impact in our future. Unfortunately, Bordeaux team could not be present in conference. Therefore, the event was broadcasted on our Facebook page and both Bordeaux and Saclay teams shared the link. This has allowed the diffusion of the conference in Bordeaux, Strasbourg and in others French cities. More than 1,700 people viewed the broadcast throughout France. At the end of the conference, we gave the opportunity for the audience to ask questions about the intervention.

      Afterwards, the audience and the speakers continued their discussions around a buffet that we organized with the help of iGEM Saclay and Bordeaux teams. It was a wonderful experience that pleased the professors as well as the students. We have been asked whether another conference will soon take place. Thus, we think of proposing the future teams of Sorbonne U Paris, Bordeaux and Saclay to organize a conference on another subject related to synthetic biology.

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      Practical Sessions in "Maurice Genevoix" High school

      Education holds a pivotal position in science. After some events with the large audience, we noticed that there is a negative vision on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in France. Furthermore, the synthetic biology is a recent science little known by the people. High school students in France have no concrete idea of the genetics and the molecular biology. That is why we decided to intervene, with the help of iGEM Montpellier team, in a 6th grade scientific section class at the High school Maurice Genevoix at Montrouge. It was very important for us to explain synthetic biology in a didactic way with a practical exercise.

      Last year, the iGEM UPMC 2017 team contacted Miss Yasmine Bellagha, a biology teacher in Maurice Genevoix High school in the city of Montrouge. This year, she wanted to organize the same practical course in one of her classes. She was very happy to hear about the iGEM competition. Her former students really liked this practical course last year.

      The practical work took place in two sessions:
      - First session: (4 hours – 10/08/2018)
      - Second session: (2 hours – 10/16/2018):
      We wanted to transmit some fundamental biology notions. During these 2 sessions, three main educational interests were brought to the fore: - Initiation to microbiology: use of the microscope, discovery of culture media, dilution and spreading techniques and learning to work under sterile conditions.
      - Approaching the genotype-phenotype relationship showed that the phenotype is directly linked to the genotype and that traits are transmitted from generation to generation.
      - Studying the mutagenic effect of UV on yeasts proved that UV acts directly on DNA by introducing mutations (appearance of mutants, decrease in the number of clones, lethal effect).

      This experience was very rewarding to us. The pupils really enjoyed the practical course and were very thankful. We are very grateful to Mrs Bellagha who did her best to provide anything we asked for to organize the practicals and she fully trusted us in our work with her students.

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      The Science Fair

      Poster of Conference
      Poster of the Science Fair" (12th October to 14th October 2018)

      Created in 1991, La Fête de la Science or The Science Fair is organized every year by the Higher education, Research and Innovation Ministry for everyone who wants to discover the world of the sciences and to meet the women and the men who work in science. The Science Fair 2018 took place from the 6th till the 14th of October, everywhere in France. This event proposes several free workshops and visits opened to all including pupils, schoolchildren, high school students and adults. We handled a stand at The Science Fair 2018 of Sorbonne University on the 12th, 13th and 14th of October this year. Using candies, we explained the structure of DNA and how the two strands matched. Thereafter, we showed the genetic code and helped children to understand how proteins are created, parents were also interested by our explanation

      On the other hand, we presented microorganisms to parents and children and explained how useful and powerful they could be as GMOs. In the end, we explained our project and showed them Chlamydomonas reinhdartii which is the microorganism we are using, through the microsope. Around hundreds of children and adults came to our stand where they enjoyed our explanations and activities and showed interest in our project “SugaRevolution”.

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      Public survey

      In order to learn more about people’s vision and expectations regarding sustainable development and our project as well as GMOs in general, we created a public survey. The main axes of this survey were:
      1) Definition of sustainability in general and environmental sustainability
      2) Importance given to environmental issues and people trying to solve them
      3) Perception of our project and the issues it wants to tackle
      4) Opinion/Knowledge about GMOs
      5) Questions/reluctances about our project or GMOs

      Our survey was created on, each of our team members shared it on their social media accounts and we also asked for the participation of numerous iGEM teams around the world. In total we obtained 291 responses among which 64,9 % from women, 33,3% from men and 1.7% from people identifying as other. We noted that most of the participants to this survey are involved in the field of biology, as you can see from the diagram below. This might be related to the nature if the “crowd” we shared our survey with.

      You can download the results on our survey

      Article published in Alma Mater Journal
      (N°10, October 2018, Page 7)

      The Alma Mater is the first, monthly and free in teruniversity newspaper created on the Pierre and Marie Curie campus of Sorbonne University. The principle of this journal is to bring together students from different intellectual and academic backgrounds to offer original and diversified media, both in form and content. Indeed, the newspaper is composed of a large variety of news headings, from science to culture. During our interview with the journal, we shared our journey in the competition with a public wide of student(from the different Parisian Universities) from various majors. Our goal was to improve the public awareness about Synthetic Biology and its potential to change our everyday life.

      Newspaper Alma mater
      Article published in Alma mater journal about our team (N°10, October 2018, Page 7)