Education And Public Engagement

Let’s introduce synthetic biology to society in a different way

I probably know most about whale hunting from Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”, most about the British society in the late 18th century from Jane Austin’s “ Pride and Prejudice” and I probably thought most about the connection of intelligence and happiness when reading “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes.

So why not learning about synthetic biology in a story?

Understanding what synthetic biology is and how synthetic biology can contribute to making our everyday-life better is a difficult task. Especially for people who are not in contact to this field of research, since the public image of synthetic biology is not the best and most people are associating this field of research with fear. Several iGEM teams and synthetic biology teaching projects have shown that the fear regarding synthetic biology can be reduced by introducing examples of research projects to dismantle synthetic biology as abstract topic. We think that getting in contact with synthetic biology projects is a lot easier for people who are already interested in this matter and aimed for reaching the people who usually would not get in contact with these teaching projects. Furthermore, we wanted to design a fun way to learn about synthetic biology and associated projects.

In times of a pandemic: How to reach people without being physically represented?

In times of Corona it is more difficult to reach people and teach them about synthetic biology than usual. All of the events where we as iGEM Team distributed knowledge the last years, simply did not take place this year. That is why we asked ourselves how we can reach people via distance to act Corona compliant and which target group do we want to address. We decided to invest in the future by sharing our knowledge with the next generation. So we decided to reach out to children between the ages of 10 and 14.

An audiobook: A playful way to teach the youth about synthetic biology

Since we found it difficult to assess the level of knowledge of 10-14 year olds worldwide and especially difficult, to formulate the content in English in an understandable and correct manner for this age group, we recorded the audio files in German. However, we also translated the audio book into English, so that everyone can read the story. By also making it available as text, people with hearing impairments can also follow the story and we can make it accessible to more people. Another reason was, that we also found it easier to find a medium on which we could make it accessible to children in Germany than to children from all over the world.

We knew that it could be difficult to understand all of the content just by listening, so we created a treasure map on which the children can look up the facts and, for example, views through the microscope.

With the help of the university radio, Hertz 87.9 and especially Dorian, who is part of the radio team, we recorded the audio book in a professional studio and would like to thank the radio again for the support.

As the audiobook is interactive we have developed a map which helps you to choose the right way until the end. You can find it below.

Story of the audio book

As we wanted to reach especially german children with the audio book itself, we also want to provide it in written form for non german speaking children and for other teams. So click on Read more for an english version in written form and on listen for a german one to listen to.


Here we accompany the adventures of the three friends Emma, Amira and Simon. Amira and Simon are both 13 years old and have known each other since elementary school. Recently the three undertaken a trip with their class to the Teutolab of the University of Bielefeld. This is a project in which students conduct experiments in a laboratory at the university. During the project they met professor Kalski, with whom they got along particularly well. Now the summer vacations have just begun and the three spend a sunny day at the Obersee. Suddenly Amira disappears between the reeds. Read more… Or do you want to listen?

Plastic pieces

Talking to the expert – Our young researchers want to talk to Professor Kalski about the plastic in the Obersee. In Professor Kalskis Lab, Emma, Amira und Simon take a look at the plastic pieces unter the microscop and talk about possible solutions for the problem they discovered. Read more.. Or do you want to listen?


This water seems to be empty – Wait? What’s that? Amira collects water in her water bottle. Sample collection is an important part of sustainability projects. So what’s the next step after sample collection? Analyzing the samples! Our three young investigators head back to the lab. Read more.. Or do you want to listen?

Find the polluter

Find the polluter – Environmental pollution is always caused by someone. The three investigators take a deeper look into finding the polluter, but the search for the “bad” people without any consciousness turns out different than expected. Read more… Or do you want to listen?

Plastic degradation

Key – lock principle? Never heard of that? – No, we are twelve and thirteen? Trying to find out how to solve plastic pollution with synthetic biology requires a lot of scientific knowledge, so our investigators talk to the professor again. Read more… Or do you want to listen?

Gene scissor

Not enough scientific background for you? No problem! Our professor is also an expert for the gene scissors CRISPR/CAS9. It is impressive what our young investigators learn on there science journey! Read more.. Or do you want to listen?

Restriction enzyme

Scientific failure – The only scientific event that every scientist knows. Unfortunately, our three young investigators experience this as well. But science is offers a lot of different solutions, we just need to find the one that works. Our three investigators move on and are on the way to find alternatives. Read more.. Or do you want to listen?


Methods, methods, methods – But which is the one we shall choose? Our three investigators learn about UV-radiation, but is this method the one? The professor helps out with his background knowledge. What method will our main characters choose? Read more… Or do you want to listen?


We hope that this audio book will bring synthetic biology closer to all who are interested. We would be very happy if other teams translate this audio book into their language to reach children worldwide and spread our joy of synthetic biology.