Team:Tufts/Public Engagement

What is a Toehold Switch?

This page is dedicated to all of the things we did to engage our community. This includes:

  • Creating a video to teach the world about the use of a toehold switch
  • There is substantial general apprehension about synthetic biology and the responsible limits of its use. By explaining the mechanisms behind the process, the synthetic biology aspect is demystified and becomes a tool more people would be willing to use. This video is also one of few existing videos on the subject and has an engaging format, which may interest viewers in pursuing synthetic biology as a career, allowing the field to expand.

  • We taught a two part series on genetics and synthetic biology at a science summer camp for children between the fourth and sixth grades in Winchester, Massachusetts, at McCall Middle School.
  • We collaborated with the teachers of the course, Mrs. Dimare and Mr. Row, to fit our curriculum into the topics that were already being studied and to format it in a way that is accessible to children. Our first lecture focused on the basics of genetics, which was used to establish a foundation for the synthetic biology lecture. This included a DNA beads activity, in which the children made bracelets with colored beads corresponding to a portion of the DNA sequence of their favorite organism. We used this to segue into a discussion about the principles of base pairing, and then talked about heritability. The lecture was concluded with a video about dominant and recessive traits. The following lecture centered on synthetic biology and its applications, including the design of our toehold. We discussed the rapidly emerging field of synthetic biology and genetic engineering, and how it could be used for a wide variety of applications, such as curing genetic mutations. We also drew a model of our project design and explained its mechanism in detail, and how it could be potentially used to detect diseases in the future. We used this to start a discussion about the limits of genetic engineering and where ethics become a grey area. By the end of the lecture, the students were aware that synthetic biology is already used in many different fields, and were interested in the field themselves. This summer, we helped spark an interest and understanding of synthetic biology in the younger generation, possibly inspiring the bright minds of tomorrow.

    "Thank you for the lecture iGem. I really think the kids understood it all, and some of them seemed really excited by the idea that genes could be edited. Great job!"

    -Mrs. Dimare