As an iGEMer, our mission is not only limited to this project but also to take it our responsibility to expand the influence of synthetic biology to a larger scope. Therefore, we attach great importance to public education and publicity in this year’s IGEM process. Especially, we have done a lot of popular science education for the coronavirus and its detection.
To promote synthetic biology, ECUST-iGEMers established a community called ECUST-Lab in 2017. The Club holds workshops twice a week, in which we gathered together to discuss literature on synthetic biology or previous iGEM projects and shared our views with each other. Meanwhile, project progress and former teams’ project interpretations were put on WeChat, Bilibili, INS, and other public media, making synthetic biology readily accessible. The community can not only train members for the next competition but also promote the concept of synthetic biology for more students. Learning in the club is a precious memory for every team member.
To promote synthetic biology and improve people’s understanding of some biological principles, we made a series of popular science videos.
In our promotion video, we introduced the source of our inspiration and the detection process of our project, which would bring great convenience to coronavirus detection and help doctors to solve some tricky problems.
We issued a questionnaire on the understanding of principles of nucleic acid detection, which turned out that just ten percent of participants knew it. So in the second promotion video, we showed the principle of nucleic acid detection. Through easy-to-understand language, we introduced the principle of RT-PCR and how we amplify the signal of nucleic acid to increase the accuracy of our device.
We posted these videos on the WeChat public account of our college and Bilibili, which have received much attention as well as a heated discussion.
To publicize more knowledge about synthetic biology and coronavirus detection to the public, we have written many popular science articles and posted them on the WeChat public account. One of our tweets is to introduce the principle of antibody detection, and the other is about synthetic biology and they have gained considerable popularity.
Bernard Shaw once said: “life is not a short candle, but a torch that we hold temporarily; we should burn it brightly, and then give it to the next generation.” Hoping that our next generation could cultivate their interest in synthetic biology, we volunteered to teach in several primary schools since the start of school in September.
On Sep.5, we went to Jianghai Elementary School in Shanghai to introduce synthetic biology and pass on some scientific knowledge upon COVID-19. The whole lecture lasted for more than an hour. It contained four parts including the basic definition of synthetic biology, a blueprint of it, and its relationship with viruses and human health.
We first introduced the topic of synthetic biology by showing a popular science video Glowing Plants and discussing the movie Jurassic Park which most of the children might be interested in. Then, some health tips and knowledge of viruses relating to the principle of synthetic biology were shared. . In the context of the global coronavirus pandemic, most students have more or less understanding of COVID-19. We attached the importance of improving detection technology and developing an effective vaccine by analyzing the global pandemic situation, hence the necessity of our D-E-tector device. Our idea of the detecting device engaged all the students and encouraged them to explore the wonderful world of synthetic biology. They all enjoyed this lecture and communicated with us enthusiastically.
At the end of September, we carried out a science lecture in the Youth Activity Center in Xuhui, Shanghai, whose aim was to introduce the idea of synthetic biology to the senior high school students. During this lecture, we exploit iGEM 2019 ECUST Paper Transformer and 2020 ECUST D-E-tector. It took place on Sept. 26th from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Juvenile’s Activities Center of Xuhui. The audience is composed of students who came from Shanghai Nanyang Model High School, Shanghai Weiyu High School, Shanghai No.2 High School, and so on. The hosts were Lydia Yu, Yi Ju, Yiran Zhao.
This lecture was made up of four major parts. We first introduced the idea of synthetic biology by a few scientific videos and vividly explained what biobricks are. By using the genetic circuit model of Paper Transformer, we explained how the design of our project was closely bound with synthetic biology. After that, we introduced the coronavirus and explained the severe situation that we are now facing. More than that, the importance of the study of vaccines was also shared. Then the principles of COVID-19 testing and the protocol of real time-PCR were explained. Moreover, we depicted how we designed our hardware and expressed our vision. Finally, we took a peek at the history of synthetic biology and discussed the would-be challenges and opportunities.
After the lecture, the present students have a rough understanding of synthetic biology and our basis of D-E-tector. At the same time, they got to know how to connect part of our everyday problems with synthetic biology and seek
a solution. And we believed that everyone has benefited a lot from this lecture.
We have asked the guardians of children and teenagers appearing in wiki for their opinions and obtained their consent.