Astroyeast - Accelerating outer space exploration through synthetic biology !-- Title end -->


Science Communication

We explained our research to multiple audiences from different backgrounds.


The expansive field of science is stimulating and engaging to those who have learned its language and conventions. As a scientist, we are surrounded by like minded individuals and it is very easy to forget the gap in understanding scientific concepts between a scientific and non-scientific audience. Complex concepts are reduced to acronyms, such as CRISPR-Cas9, which do not convey to the general public the operations or applications of these technologies. The lack of accessible language limits innovation and the impact that new scientific discoveries can bring to the everyday life of a person, the public, and the environment. In the synthetic biology field, there is a lot of debate as to whether new genetic engineering technologies are good for the community. A large portion of this unease can be attributed to a lack of general knowledge many people have about the field. The technological advances being misunderstood, misrepresented, and consequently seeding fear in the media.

This year at iGEM Concordia we wanted to bridge that gap and make science more accessible to a greater audience as we opened the doors to a more inclusive discussion of these new emerging technologies. In order to do this, our team communicated science in three different approaches, we conducted social media campaigns, hosted open discussion panels, hosted interactive and online synbio exhibitions and residencies. We were passionate to spark learning, discovery, and exchange as we outlined the many aspects of synthetic biology in the everyday world-from real-world solutions to the ethics of genetic engineering (Panel discussions on synthetic biology applications for sustainable food production on earth and in space on August 19th and September 3rd 2020; Canadian Mini-Jamboree on September 19th and 20th, 2020).

Synbio Talks, Workshops & Exhibitions

SynBio Interactive Exhibition and Round Table Discussion: Life and Its Definers

February 2020

We hosted a month-long synbio exhibition at 4th Space Concordia including an interactive exhibition space, workshops and a synbio discussion panel titled “Life and its Definers”. The panel was an open conversation to introduce new audiences to the field of synthetic biology and to tackle some of the most important questions preoccupying its experts including ethics, science history, or a futuristic vision of an Avatar-like world. This event was organized by Lancia Lefebvre and Kenza Samlali from iGEM Concordia.

Participants included: Ananda Gabo, an explorer of food systems, bio artist, community builder, open hardware enthusiast and speculative futurist from Toronto; Dr. Brandiff Caron, Science and Technology Ethicist, Concordia University; and Justin Atkin of TheThoughtEmporium, DIY Biologist/Youtuber. iGEM Concordia thanks Concordia Sustainability Action Fund for their support.

You can watch the discussion session on YouTube.

Channel: 4TH SPACE Concordia University.

Title: Life And Its Definers, A round-table discussion.

Panel Discussion : Microbes and Cell Agriculture for Sustainable Food Production

August 19th, 2020

An interactive panel discussion with iGEM teams and industry leaders With speakers Michael Selden, CEO and Co-Founder of Finless Foods; Michelle Oeser, R&D Manager at Lallemand; and Ahmed Khan, Founder of CellAgri.

Veggie burgers, algae shrimp, vegan cheeses, synthetic flavors, and animal-free egg whites are making their way into our restaurants and supermarket shelves. What consumers may not realize, however, is that many of these foods are made using synthetic biology, an emerging science that applies principles of genetic engineering to redesign organisms to solve real-world problems.

Synbio holds a promise for a sustainable future for the food industry by using fewer natural food resources, improving crop yields, and ensuring the availability of basic nutrition at a global scale. Synbio food products are also key to a sustainable future for the space industry: NASA is designing a yeast strain that can manufacture crucial nutrients in space, like beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), to ensure the health of astronauts during long-duration missions.

An increasing number of food suppliers are teaming up with microbes for smarter food production. Yet, public perception has been changing at a slower pace. This stems from a lack of accessible information leaving unanswered questions about the safety and environmental, economic, and social sustainability of these products. In collaboration with 4TH SPACE and iGEM Université de Laval, iGEM Concordia hosted an online event where academic researchers, industry experts, and community representatives explored answers to these questions.

Thank you to the Concordia Sustainability Action Fund for their support.

You can watch the discussion session on YouTube.

Channel: iGEM Concordia.

Title: Microbes and cell agriculture for sustainable food production.

Panel Discussion: Microorganisms for Sustainable Food Production: From Earth to Space

September 3rd, 2020

iGEM ULaval and iGEM Concordia are proud to have organized a panel discussion which asks, how can synthetic biology contribute to sustainable production of food in space?

We explored how synthetic biology can harness microorganisms for applications such as to convert undesirable maple syrup to a delectable delight for morning pancakes on the Moon, to help optimize hydroponic systems for long term space flights, and how microorganisms can contribute to establishing permanent agriculture on Mars.

With guest speakers Morgan Irons, Founder and Chief Science Officer of Deep Space Ecology agricultural solutions for Earth and on Mars; Marie Filteau, food scientist and specialist in the microbial ecology of food and maple syrup; and Karen McDonald, Division Lead at NASA-affiliated Center for the Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space (CUBES).

You can watch the discussion session on YouTube.

Channel: iGEM Concordia.

Title: Microorganisms for Sustainable Food Production: from Earth to Space.

Virtual Presence:

Online Residency & Social Media

Social media is important to us as it allows us to reach and engage with a broad audience. This includes students at our university, members of the iGEM community and members of the general public. We took over 4th Space Concordia’s social media challenges for one week as we shared our knowledge related to synthetic biology as well as our project AstroBio & AstroYeast. It was important and exciting for us to engage with a broader audience through educational and informative content related to space and synthetic biology applications. We posted weekly synbio words of the day, inclusion posts, as well as content related to space exploration, advances in genetic engineering and our project advancement. Our mentors also shared their current research, we promoted synbio science fiction and we even cast our Real Time Technology Assessment with Dr. Brandiff Caron live.

Our social media following grew through active engagement and promotions from our many events. We also connected with local student groups such as Women In STEM, Space Concordia and STEM Fellowship, as we expanded our network. We are excited to continue to engage with, learn from and grow our community.

Social Media Metrics

We tracked our science communication progress on social media to evaluate the impact of our outreach. We tracked growth trends for our demographics, tweet impressions, and followers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Mini Jamboree

Open to the public, online the Mini Jamboree consisted of Canadian iGEM teams presenting their synbio solutions, along with talks from the Canadian Space Agency and Orbital Farms; and featured entrepreneur, inclusion & graphic design workshops.

Scot Bryson (Orbital Farms)

Mini Jamboree Talk

Dr. Luchino Cohen (CSA/ASC)

Mini Jamboree Talk

Science Communication report

Throughout the events that we planned and organized, we interacted with participants and gathered their feedback to ensure that our science communication efforts were effective. During our panel discussions, we used polls to collect feedback from our participants regarding their perception of synbio-derived foods. We documented the statistics and feedback we gathered in our science communication report.

View our SciComm report

Our 2020-2021 iGEM project is generously supported by

Gold Partners

Copyright 2020 iGEM Concordia