Postcard Project

The iGEM competition is not only about our projects, but also about engaging the public with synthetic biology. In order to do so, the previous iGEM teams of the Heinrich-Heine-University Duesseldorf created a project to promote synthetic biology by using self-designed postcards. Each year, the amount of participating iGEM teams has grown, with a big pool of beautiful and funny postcards as a result. We wanted to continue this tradition this year as well. Despite the difficulties the iGEM teams had this year due to the corona pandemic, this international collaboration was a great success.

More than 30 iGEM teams from all over the world sent us their self-designed postcard which shows an image related to their project or synthetic biology in general on the front and a small informational text on the back.

Because of the lockdowns, it was not possible for all teams to physically send the postcards from their countries. As a solution, we suggested printing the postcards directly in Germany via an online-store, which worked for everyone without any major problems.

The iGEM team Nantes implemented this challenge in a particularly creative way. Each of their postcards is unique and belongs together in pairs. They challenged the participants to find their pair after receiving the postcards.

After all postcards had arrived, we mixed them up and sent a package back to all participants, so each team received postcards from all over the world.

A collage of the postcards
The following iGEM Teams participated in the collaboration:

Collaboration with UPF Barcelona

This year the team iGEM UPF-Barcelona hosted a podcast called “Charlas in Silico”. The podcast has different sections such as: bionews, iGEM news and interviews to experts or members of other iGEM teams. One of our team members was invited to participate in one of the podcasts . It was very interesting to share our ideas on synthetic biology and the iGEM competition. We talked about different application processes for iGEM teams as well as the diversity of expertise in our respective teams. The process of choosing a project is very important to many teams and there are several approaches, which we discussed. An important conclusion of the talk was that it would be interesting to promote iGEM among students from different fields of study and not only biological sciences, such as mathematics, physics, art, social sciences, philosophy, etc. The presence of representatives of different fields of study would provide the team with a wider diversity of points of view, which would make the whole project much richer. A bigger advertisement strategy among other faculties would be recommendable for the future iGEM teams.

Our Skype meeting with iGEM Barcelona.

Collaboration with iGEM Calgary

iGEM Calgary contacted us in August, because they were interested in our work in modelling. They were working on a flux balance analysis model and asked for advice on how to handle project specific problems.
Their problems included modelling their co-cultures in a single model, measuring the O2-dependency of their bacteria in a bioreactor and the overall impact on their modified chassis’ metabolism.
A co-culture can be modelled by splitting up a model into multiple compartments, each representing another bacteria. The problem of the cultures O2-dependency could be tested by implementing the O2 influx in the model, plugging in various thresholds and observing the impact on the model. An effect on the metabolism of the chassis could be measured by integrating a biomass pool in the model, which represents the growth of the culture in a whole. The biomass accumulation can be compared between the modified and unmodified chassis. In return they shared different papers and applications with us that we could use to improve our own model.

Our Skype meeting with iGEM Calgary.

iJET project by iGEM Aachen and iGEM Darmstadt

The iJET collaboration video was organized by the iGEM team of Aachen and Darmstadt. The iJET paper plane flew across the globe and visited iGEM teams from all over the world. The paper plane also made a pit stop here in Duesseldorf before it continued on its way showing that the iGEM competition unites us.

Maastricht journal project

The iGEM team Maastricht worked on a journal compiling articles of the iGEM teams 2020, which should be created according to the regulations of a regular scientific journal. These articles ranged from a write-up of the teams iGEM project to reviews of work done by teams of prior years.

The collaboration for this journal initiative started in July 4th. To become a participant we needed to send them an abstract of the article we planned to write for the journal, with it being between 100 and 300 words long. And we had to send it in until the 15th. We decided we wanted to participate with an article about our own iGEM project.

Only a day later we were accepted into the initiative and had until the end of August to write a complete article. To achieve this goal we were given an outline for how the article should be structured and what limits we had to work with. The word limit here was 1500 words for the main text and at maximum 3 pages overall.

Because we had no possibility to work in the laboratory until then we had no data to present and so we decided that we would show what we had planned for the project. For this we summarized our plans on how we wanted to modify Physcomitrella patens and how we wanted to test if these modifications work. We also presented the metabolic model we had created up to that point and explained our plans and progress on the photobioreactor we were designing.

We uploaded our article to their website at the end of August.

In early September the next phase of the initiative started where the teams had to peer review the articles of others. We received the articles from iGEM teams Ecuador and KU Istanbul, along with a guideline document on how this review should be done. After a week these were finished and handed to the teams so that they were able to refine their articles.

After the final revisions were done, every team voted on the three articles they thought should go into the physical release of the journal. Sadly we were not part of this selection though we still enjoyed our time working on our article. But with this being our first time writing an article in line with the standards of a scientific journal we also had the opportunity to learn - for example how not only to captivate the reader to read something with a higher demand on scientific understanding but also how to make it easy to follow the explanations given. Another lesson we got out of this experience is how to convey a lot of detailed science while not exceeding the limit or understating important information.

We are very happy we had the chance to be part of this collaboration with so many other teams and their great work.

German iGEM-Meetup

This year the iGEM Gießen x Marburg organized the German iGEM online Meetup. We prepared a team introduction video for the meetup and presented our poster in the poster session. The workshops we attended were helpful. Especially the workshop “Think Like a Child” which was hosted by iGEM Bilkent-UNAMBG inspired us, so we decided to teach science and biology to young children.

International Day of Friendship

July 30th was the International Friendship Day. In order to show that the iGEM competition connects us with other teams around the world and brings us closer, we have worked with iGEM Aachen, iGEM Stockholm, and iGEM IISER Bhopal together and united our mascots in one picture. The mascots exchange their elements with each other. With that, we wanted to show how iGEM teams work together and how much we can achieve by working together.

The comic featuring our mascot Physco for the international Day of Friendship