The aspiration to explore how, what we are doing fits into the society required us to first reach out to the public. Connecting to the general public, academia as well as those who our project is directly aimed to help, the horse owner community, required some different approaches. We have kept the goal throughout the project to make our science approachable to as many as possible although at times we did dive into specifics. In order to introduce ourselves to different groups with different interests and different knowledge we have been working on several mini-projects such as a symposium “Limits of Life”, lectures for various audiences as well as reaching out via different media.
Symposium – Limits of Life
Human Practices is all about bringing the science to the people and what better way to do this then to create a big event, where everyone (scientists, academics and further citizens) is invited? This was the start of the collaboration between iGEM Uppsala and iGEM Stockholm with further support from iGEM Lund. Our goal was to organize an event that would break down the differences between scientists and non academic people by bringing up subjects that everyone can recognize themselves in, as well as introducing synthetic biology to those who wanted to learn more about it. Together we organized a symposium in Uppsala called “Limits of Life” that was divided into two sessions.
Understanding Your Limits
The first session was called “Understanding Your Limits”, where topics covering iGEM, burnout, stress, mindfulness and general tips of balancing your life, no matter what background you might have, were presented. To this session we had invited 3 different speakers, starting with Will Wright (iGEM ambassador), Marie Åsberg (professor emerita at Karolinska Institutet) and Jonas Nielsen (member of Uppsala iGEM 2018). Mr Wright introduced what iGEM is to the mixed audience and explained what challenges every iGEM team encounters no matter what field they may work within, considering the stress factor, and tips of how to avoid them by putting a lot of effort into the structure of the project. Mrs Åsberg then continued with presenting gradually symptoms of burnout and tips on how the individuals can recognize the symptoms and start changing their lifestyle to be more enduring. Mr Nielsen then held a very appreciated workshop about mindfulness to provide a practical tools for the audience to use in the stressful lifestyle that is so common among us. From this session both the participants and audience learned something new, whether it was a practical tool to handle a stressful lifestyle or learning more about iGEM.
Figure 1. Will answering questions from the audience.
Figure 2. Marie explaining the science behind stress.
The second session was called “Hacking Life”, where we organized a panel discussion that introduced the topic of synthetic biology as well as different ethical aspects and future applications. The panel was represented by Hannes Sjöblad (Swedish ambassador for Singularity University (NASA) with a background of biohacking), Per Sandin (associate professor in philosophy, and a senior lecturer in bioethics and environmental ethics at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) and Jens Sundström (is a member of the swedish genetics committee and a senior lecturer at the institution for plant biology at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences). The panel was moderated by Nicolai Dorka (member of Stockholm iGEM 2018) and Niclas Fahlander (member of Uppsala iGEM 2018).
Figure 3. Hannes Sjöblad, Per Sandin and Jens Sundström reflecting over opportunities and risks involving biohacking.
From this session both the participants and audience developed new insight in synthetic biology and thus iGEM could decrease further misinterpretation about subjects, such as GMO, that are common among citizens who have none or too little education about it. The interface between humans and different technologies, both silica- and of organic based were also discussed together with its entailing ethical discussions. The scenario was encaptivating and involving so many of the people present in the audience that it was hard to push for a break mid-section. Its safe to say both then and in retrospect that people found there time worth spent attending the symposium that day.
Figure 4. Teams of Stockholm, Lund and Uppsala
Figure 5. Jens Sundström discussing GMO´s with the audience.
Figure 6. Mingle with synthetic biology enthusiasts.
Taking every chance to spread the word - BEST lecture
BEST (Board of European Students of Technology), an introductory summer course in synthetic biology held in the same lab-corridor. It was a pleasure to present and discuss our project with a group of students already in the mindset of biotechnology. The students found the presentations interesting and inspirational.
Figure 7. Niclas explaining the principles of phage display.
The Student Conference in Science and Technology 2018.
This conference is an annual event at Uppsala University that besides being a place for science enthusiasts to connect simultaneously, fulfills the purpose of communication training at the faculty of science and technology. Students are given an opportunity to give a presentation on a scientific subject in front of a larger audience and receive feedback on rhetorics. The challenge of this talk was adapting it to the diverse audience - students from different disciplines in different stages of their education. However, the public was bewildered by Wormbuster story. Special interest went to phage-display methodology as by coincidence announcement of this years Nobel prize winners in chemistry came the same morning and was pricing the development of the method.
Figure 8. Sebastian and Oliver presenting at the Student Conference in Science and Technology 2018.
iGEM Uppsala association arranges SynBio-hour every year inviting all who have interest in synthetic biology and student driven projects. After the general introduction about iGEM , Wormbusters took the stage. The interest for iGEM was sparked in many new minds.
Figure 9. Elin and Matilda introducing iGEM.
Ridsport - reaching out to horse community
Ridsport is the biggest magazine about equestrianism and horse breeding in Sweden. They found our story and goals interesting and with their help we got to reach the people who we were trying to help. You can find the article here .
UNT - engaging the general public
Uppsalas Nya Tidning is the local newspaper in Uppsala. In the middle of summer they visited us for an interview followed up with article. You can read the digital version here .
Techna - spreading inspiration among fellow students
Techna - Uppsala Union of Engineering and Science Students own newspaper, featured a series of articles following the teams journey. Covering both science and general project-management stories we popularized iGEM in Swedens historically biggest student city.
In the Uppsala IGEM team 2018’s booklet we focused on the topic burning out. We thought that it was a really interesting topic, as it is one of the factors that can affect the proper development of the project as it involve so many people, stress situations, deadlines etc. For this reason, we decided to compose a guideline to prevent and increase the knowledge of this condition. To do so, we started with an internal survey that the IGEM members answered, talking about their experiences during their projects.
This evaluation consists of 5-6 sections with questions, and it takes more or less 10 minutes to answer it. The survey was constructed by the iGEM Uppsala Association & Team and is constructed to highlight and improve the work environment during the iGEM project and to identify risks that the team needs to be aware of.
The survey is so far answered by nearly 80 people. In this group we found: former members, members of this year's project and members from other iGEM teams around the world, which provided a broad idea of how their experiences were and how they feel regarding the stress related to the project. Some preliminary statistics were incorporated in our booklet but for future improvements we encourage more iGEMers to participate in this survey. You can find it here .