Education and Public Engagement
We advocate more and more people approaching into the world of synthetic biology. A serious of activities were arranged to enlarge our influence and spread synthetic biology to every age group. All those feedbacked us for the special gift: through a picture book for children named The adventure of Xinye, we told interesting stories based on advanced synthetic biological technologies to children and showed them how the technologies have changed our daily life. The Synthetic biology can be a popular science with our effort.
The Adventure of Xinye our cooperation with China National Center For Biotechnology Development
A gift for children
Aimed at making synthetic biology easier to understand for ordinary people, we decided to write a serious of popular science stories based on advanced synthetic biological technology as well as previous successful iGEM program. It is the most important that we manage to adjust scientific knowledge to a proper form suitable for children and people without systematic biological learning. In our stories, we set a protagonist named XinYe (means newborn leaf in English), a gifted boy studying in a biology lab with Professor Yingjin Yuan, our PI. The mainline of the book tells his adventure recording how he helps various microorganisms to solve problems using the knowledge of synthetic biology. Many cartoon figures was added to attract young readers and help them understand the biological principle better.
In other activities, many participants made practical suggestions to polish our writing and typesetting. Never can we accomplish the job without their support. It’s worth mentioning that our book is sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the PRC and will be published around the world by the middle of November. So far it is the first popular science book about synthetic biology published for children in China.
Furthermore, we plan to expand the reading target of our books by writing a more professional synthetic biological book for teenagers in middle school and high school. By now, we have finished the first draft and the book is planed to be published in 2019.
Approaching iGEM on Malus Spectabilis Festival
Malus spectabilis is the symbol flower of Tianjin University and every Spring we hold the festival as a grand party to public. Every year when the flowers bloom, thousands of citizens visit our campus to appreciate the lovely flowers. In the meantime, it is also a good time for diverse student organization to display their extraordinary achievements to the public. We set up our stall early in the morning, exhibited the poster, played interesting games that spread knowledge of synthetic biology and did experimental performances. With adequate preparation and smart ideas, we attracted batches of people to adore our activities.
However, during the event, we found that people’s understanding of biotechnology have stayed in traditional plants and animal cells in biology books. They also complained that advanced concept of synthetic biology seems to be far from reality, which gives us a signal that synthetic biology should be more accessible and popular science by our endeavors.
We focus on building bridge between biology textbook and advanced synthetic biology, setting up a call line between teenagers and parents. In August 19th, we held an laboratory open-up event for both teenagers and parents nation-wide. About 100 people participated in the activity. In our lab, we operated experimental apparatus to them and explained how to do a well-designed experiment following certain protocol. Meanwhile, we also taught them several experiment skills and safety issues that need to pay attention on. The final part appeared to be their favorite that we shared our academic experience about studying synthetic biology and participating in iGEM competition. Our effort was deeply appreciated by every visitor.
To give children a more vivid experience of exploring synthetic biology, we organized a TV show broadcast on Tianjin TV station. On September 23th, we invited over 20 families to our lab. After teaching them some basic knowledge of microorganism and introducing our project, each kid did a simple biology experiment with our security guard, such as observing the specimen by microscope, running the DNA electrophoresis, etc. During this happy period, bursts of laughter kept floating out of our lab and all the kids showed great curiosity about the new microorganism world. Meanwhile we discussed the picture book with their parents. They gave us much helpful advice on how to make the book more accessible for kids. After the activity, the record was programmed by the TV station and broadcast circularly.
In China, ‘Second Class’ means a supplement to the normal class where students acquire knowledge out of textbooks. We visited many local high schools and still stay connected with a handful of biology teachers, majority of which warmly welcome us to do and explain experiments for students. We hit it off with each other as soon as we met. Worked with NKU, TUST, and OUC, we prepared a detailed schedule containing: gene manipulation technique, the concept of synthetic biology and its application in reality, introduction of iGEM project and example of our program. You can find more details about the collaboration in the collaboration.
To our great surprise, we received countless fans of synthetic biology and they showed great passion about the amazing field. They listened carefully and asked questions actively. The energetic and creative thoughts provided us valuable inspiration about our program and the picture book mentioned above. It was our pleasure to expose them to shallow biology research and we sent them the most sincere invitation to our next Open-up Day.
Volunteer Course in Tianjin SOS Children Village
In a sunny day of October 9th, we went to the Tianjin SOS Children Village, the largest international children village in China. We have reached an agreement with teachers and volunteered to have a series of synthetic biology class for the children regularly. We brought them the newly-published picture book mentioned above. The children in the village expressed huge interest in the colourful pictures and kept asking us questions about Xinye’s adventure. Through communicating with them wholeheartedly, we found that as an iGEMer it is our responsibility to not only spread knowledge to those kids, but also show them the spirit of exploring new science. Although synthetic biology is an abstruse concept for children, they could easily get it across that modern biology technology is making a huge difference to our lives and many said ‘they want to be biology scientists in the future’!
How to apply your research
In our practice with people outside biology, we gradually found that production falls so far behind research that the public cannot understand its extraordinary meaning and scientists have difficulty in proving the value in their achievements. Hence, we initiated a joint research on how to apply a new technology to actual production. Worked with five iGEM teams, we visited successful companies and labs, listened to their experiences and searched for related books and papers. Combining our gains in the competition, we cooperated and accomplished the joint report. You can find the whole PDF and detailed process in this page. For iGEMers to come, we sincerely hope it could offer you some help.