Team:CSMU Taiwan/Human Practices

Human Practices

Human Practice


In iGEM competition, we always kept in mind that our duty wasn't simply conducting experiments and analyzing data. Besides being scientific and rational, we expected ourselves to be human and perceptual as well. Hence, we put our hands on oral cancer issues, which was one of the topics we cared about the most, and drew up seven plannings aiming at different values. Our vision was to raise public cognition, provide first-person experience, and establish open dialogues. Click on the tabs below to see our achievements!


Social Media Accounts

Our social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram covered bigger picture issues rather than focusing on synthetic biology alone. Click on the Facebook and Instagram icons above to browse our accounts!

We've explained how we arranged our accounts and attempted to boost our visibility in our Science Communication page, so let us move on to deeper aspects here. Being the first program of human practice, social media accounts were of important value. It is a platform that enabled us to spread knowledge systematically in the long run. To ensure our audience, generally junior high students to undergraduates, receive correct information, we've done a lot of background researches for every topic we covered. Aside from information from the internet resources, we included what we learned while doing Integrated Human Practice and Human Practice related to oral cancer, and also clearly delivered the content and goals of miRNA.DOC. Having put so many efforts, we were always grateful and relieved when followers stroke enthusiastic responses to our posts. From the comments and interaction, we could tell that potential talents in the STEM field were sure to be encouraged and benefitted.

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The National Education Radio

This July, we were honored to have the opportunity to be interviewed by the National Education Radio. The interview was carried out in four aspects: (1) the iGEM competition, (2) synthetic biology,(3) oral cancer, and (4) our project (miRNA.DOC). The opportunity was cherished by us in that we've been seeking ways to get in touch with an audience of office workers, and radio happened to be a great way to do so. We viewed every approach of spreading knowledge to the public carefully and thoughtfully for we shouldered the responsibility to ensure what we said was correct and clear, as with our attitude at posting on social media accounts. Despite our carefulness, we still appeared casual talking with the host and learned mutually from it. During the interview, we introduced the severity of oral cancer in Taiwan. The host was shocked to see the statistics. We also introduced the current detecting procedure and how we planned to improve it by miRNA.DOC. Furthermore, we got to communicate with the host, whose understanding of oral cancer was on the same page as the public, and consequently figured out how to better pass on information to society. We found that people understand more when we gave specific examples or explained with analog and that compared to written words, it is more effectively and smoothly to transmit concepts with spoken words. As our first attempt to meet up with people outside the scientific field, this radio interview brought us new perspectives and ideas on how to give our audience a more intact insight into the disease.

The National Education Radio introducing our interview on their website
Some comments under the website of The National Education Radio

Patient Experience Activity

During the club expo when the new semester at CSMU started, we set up a stall and seized the opportunity to promote iGEM competition and health care education of oral cancer. We learned from videos filmed by Taichung Veterans General Hospital about an active range of motion exercise for the mouth and specific cleaning methods for oral cancer patients. For oral cancer patients, it is difficult to open their jaws during and after radiation treatments, which can cause significant stiffness in muscles and membranes of the mouth and throat. Therefore, they have to do exercises to maintain the best function possible. As for the cleaning process, oral cancer patients’ mouths are very fragile, so we have to switch from regular toothbrushes to softer gadgets like sponge swabs. This patient experience activity highlighted the value of empathy. Thus, we demonstrated the two techniques to CSMU students and hope that they could understand more about the challenges the oral cancer patients face every day. Different from previous events or activities in which our audience generally played the role of "being educated", we had them participate actively this time. You may see in the clip below that the undergraduates from CSMU seemed to have a great time learning and experiencing the health care methods. And we also received comments on our Instagram post saying that the activity is meaningful.


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Informative Pamphlets

In order to promote oral cancer in a more organized way, we published pamphlets for the public. The audience for this pamphlet was narrowed down to the Taiwanese considered that oral cancer is a locally prevalent disease but still lacks public cognition. Therefore, we focused the contents on the statistics in Taiwan and published it in Chinese. By turning Internet information into physical publications, it was convenient to take them with us while doing street interviews or holding events such as club expo.

It is noteworthy that our plan for publishing informative pamphlets didn't stop here. While our visits to the Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation, we received several versions of publications introducing their services in different aspects. It gave us the idea to expand this planning and also publish more versions of pamphlets. Our goal was to design pamphlets for different groups of people, with each featuring different languages and contents. Though the planning is still in progress, we will strive to meet our goals and publish more pamphlets in the future.

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Street Interview

We have long known that it was a must-do to get in touch with the public face to face due to our care for collecting their needs and cognition to gaining oral cancer knowledge. Hence, we come up with a series of street interview programs, aiming for various groups of audiences such as the general public, betel nut shops, and high-risk groups. We set the theme of our street interview as "the oral cancer knowledge you must know as a Taiwanese". The interview got on by looking into their living surroundings, basic knowledge, and viewpoints toward our vision of making miRNA.DOC a home-style health care kit. For example, when interviewing the general public, we asked them whether they have any acquaintance with oral cancer and whether they've heard of any special health care method for oral cancer patients. As for betel nut shops, we asked them if they know it's malicious to consume betel nuts, or whether they've heard from their customers being diagnosed with oral cancer. Overall, we expected ourselves to learn from this interview about: (1)how well the general public know about oral cancer, (2)how betel nut shops view their act of selling health-harming products, and (3)how well high-risk groups' sense of illness is. We were glad to receive feedback straight from them and planned to adjust our way of raising public awareness of this topic according to the survey we resulted in.

However, due to the Covid-19 epidemic, we haven't completed the whole process yet. So far, we have carried out an episode of the street interview with the general public at Chung-Shan Medical University Hospital. We met a nutritionist, a surgeon, two medical students, an old couple, and a mom with a child. As we expected, people were shocked at the severity of oral cancer in Taiwan. But to our surprise, the old couple had a very deep and correct understanding of oral cancer while the medical students didn't. What's more, the surgeon said that he gained a better understanding of the detection procedure of oral cancer during our interview. He even gave us a lot of recommendations on adding artificial intelligence into miRNA.DOC. Though still striving to revise our experiments, we were thankful to receive such a visionary piece of advice.

Below are the video and photos of our street interview, and three versions of slides we made for street interviewing the general public, betel nut shops, and high-risk groups, respectively.

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Podcast Channel

Ever since our interview at the National Education Radio, we've found that it is better to deliver messages through speeches rather than words. Therefore, it was our elaborately planned program to set up a podcast channel to educate people about oral cancer. We wanted to make difference between our channel and other existing scientific podcasts, and thus come up with the idea of hosting our channel in Taiwanese. The top three job occupations to be diagnosed with oral cancer are transportation, construction, and fishery, due to their habit of chewing betel nuts to keep good spirits while working. Considered that the working environment of these three jobs involves a lot of Taiwanese speaking, we thought it would be approachable for them to take in the contents of our podcast if we carried out in the language. So far, our podcast is still in progress, but we all look forward to making it happen. We expect that in the long run, our podcast channel will reduce the statistics of the late discovery of oral cancer.

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Real life Experience Sharing

After the patient experience activity at our club expo, we figured that though getting in touch with oral cancer-related information on the Net, there was still a gap between oral cancer patients and us due to a lack of understanding of the first-person experience. Therefore, we reached out to the Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation and asked for a collaboration. The foundation was founded in 1981 with care for facial disfigurement patients. They dedicate themselves to help improve the overall condition of burn patients and oral cancer patients. Together, we decided to hold a lecture with an oral cancer patient as the host. However, we were faced with huge challenges in that oral cancer patients are vulnerable in the first place because they often suffer from chronic diseases, not to mention we were in the middle of the epidemic. It is a shame that the lecture has not yet been held because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We looked on the bright sight and regarded the circumstance as having more time to prepare for the lecture. We expected ourselves to reflect a patient's mindset and hear from them during the lecture. Furthermore, we planned to record the fifth episode of the podcast with the patient after the event, interviewing him about how the medical system can help and whether miRNA.DOC sounds supportive in early diagnosis. We are grateful that Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation highly valued our project and agreed to collaborate enthusiastically. We hope that the partnership of us could carry on and ultimately we could act as volunteers and hold disseminating events at the workplace or hospitals.


Oral cancer is a severe issue in Taiwan and still needs more public awareness. Therefore, our plans for human practice will not stop here. We will definitely continue on our journey to dedicate ourselves to improving the current situation of oral cancer in Taiwan. Our social media accounts will carry on to update the programs presently in progress. As for the podcast channel, we too are looking forward to accomplishing it. Last but not the least, we are constantly keeping in touch with the Sunshine Welfare Foundation, discussing the experience sharing of oral cancer patients. We foresee a near future that knowledge about oral cancer becomes common sense amongst the public, and miRNA.DOC evolves into a mature product. Perhaps by then, our human practice will be ready to step into the next page of promoting the healthcare brought by miRNA.DOC.


We always hope that miRNA.DOC isn't just a collection of our lab results, but a project that can truly solve the existing problems in the society and can make a change in the world. During our visits to several stakeholders and professionals, some provided us with different perspectives on this issue, while some gave us advice on their professional fields. Whether they inspired our design or helped us overcome problems we encountered, we actively incorporate those inputs in our project and it, finally, evolved into miRNA.DOC through the whole process.

We introduced and modified the design-build-test cycle similar to UC San Diego 2018 iGEM team in order to shape our project. And our project was divided into three stages, determination, development, and deployment.


"Early detection is one of the keys regarding national oral cancer control."

Health Promotion Administration(HPA), Ministry of Health and Welfare

Health Promotion Administration is a governmental organization that was formed to be responsible for health promotion and non-communicable disease prevention work. It provides comprehensive health promotion services from womb to tomb and from families to communities. And the Cancer Prevention Division under it has been dedicating to cancer prevention by planning, executing, and supervising matters related to cancers.

  1. Purpose:
    To understand the issue from the governments' perspective in order to see how oral cancer has affected Taiwan.
  2. Feedback:
    According to the Division Director, cancer has been the No.1 leading cause of death in Taiwan since 1982, accounting for 28% of total death and 11% of National Health Insurance cost. And among all cancers, oral cancer has been a pressing issue due to its high incidence rate and mortality among young adults. Besides presenting statistics such as occurrence, mortality rate and related expenses in recent years, they also introduced policies and programs such as Taiwan Cancer Control Act and Taiwan's National Screening Program. They stressed how early detection can play an important role in lowering damages caused by oral cancer. By implementing government-funded biannual screening in high-risk groups since the 1990s, occurrence and mortality has gradually decreased.
  3. Action:
    We saw the importance of early detection and it aroused a lively discussion in our team about how we can improve or assist to optimize current detection methods.

"There exist problems in current detection method due to the detection bias."

Dr. Yu-Feng Huang, Dr. Yu-Chao Chang and Dr. Chun-Cheng Chen

All of the dental professionals are from Chung Shan Medical University, which is one of the hospitals in collaboration with HPA toward oral cancer issues.

  1. Purpose:
    To investigate the strengths and limitations of current detection method.
  2. Feedback:
    Currently, oral cancer is detected by visual examinations conducted by health care professionals. If OPMD(Oral Potentially Malignant Disorder) symptoms (ex. patches, lumps, or nodules) are found, those patients are referred for biopsies in medical centers as diagnosis. Though visual examinations are noted for their cost-effectiveness, those professors pointed out that there remains detection bias in the current method. For example, they shared that there is actually a low percentage of actual OSCC patients out of all biopsies. Also, those lesions might not be visible due to extrinsic factors sometimes, resulting in delayed diagnosis and the treatment would become more costly and difficult. Since visual examinations aren't quantitative, the results would rely heavily on personal experience, and may vary a lot depending on different people conducting them. In conclusion, a quantitative detection method is in urgent need to assist in current visual examinaitons.
  3. Action:
    This interview encouraged us to brainstorm how we can achieve quantitative detection through synthetic biology to increase accuracy and achieve early detection.