Team:Hong Kong CityU/Education

Science Communication - Mini talk

An online mini talk on ‘Synthetic Biology: current technology and career’ was held on 22nd August 2020 for school kids from various local high schools. We were delighted to work with the HKUST and HK_CPU-WFN-WYY iGEM teams to introduce the basic principles and successful applications of synthetic biology to the participants. Around 160 students from three different high schools attended the mini talk followed by active discussions on how synthetic biology could help tackle various environmental problems that the world is currently facing.


Fig.1: Screen capture of the Mini Talk on "Synthetic Biology": current technology and career

In addition, participants were invited to take part in an online survey to help us understand the level of knowledge and understanding of high school students about the field of synthetic biology. Surprisingly, a majority of the respondents have a reasonable knowledge about synthetic biology, and approximately three-quarter of the respondents agree that synthetic biology would be a useful technology to help alleviate environmentally pollution. The survey showed that high school students do possess a basic understanding of synthetic biology and the potential of synthetic biology as a solution to environmental issues.


Fig. 2: The results of the online survey of synthetic biology
1: strongly disagree 2: disagree 3: Neutral 4: agree 5: strongly agree

However, when it comes to the techniques and applications of synthetic biology, only 23 out of 91 respondents claim that they are familiar with that. It shows that the discussion on the application of synthetic biology is far too inadequate. As a result, more education are needed to explain how current technology in synthetic biology are being applied to environmental problems.


Fig. 3: The results of the online survey of synthetic biology application
1: strongly unfamiliar 2: unfamiliar 3: Neutral 4: familiar 5: strongly familiar

After the mini talk, positive feedbacks were received from the students and the participating high schools. Our iGEM team is looking forward to more chances to lead more discussion on synthetic biology to create greater awareness in the general public about power and potential benefits of synthetic biology.

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Fig. 4: Posters for the promotion of synthetic biology.

Science Communication - Symposium

The CityU iGEM team co-organized and delivered a talk in the 1-day HK iGEM Symposium on ‘Advances in Synthetic Biology’ that was held on 29th August 2020. It was the first online symposium held in Hong Kong featuring renowned professors and professionals in the field of synthetic biology, as well as all of the six HK iGEM teams that will be participating in the 2020 iGEM Jamboree. It was our pleasure to help co-organize the event with the HKU and HKUST iGEM teams, and design the brochure and event booklet for the HK iGEM Symposium.

We were honoured to have five prominent keynote speakers to deliver lectures on different areas of synthetic biology Professor Heike Sederoff from Plant and Microbial Biology Department of North Carolina State University, Mr. Philipp Boeing of Bento Lab, Mr. Zhipeng Qiu of BluePha, Prof. Jiandong Huang from the School of Biomedical Sciences of The University of Hong Kong and Prof. Angela Wu from the Division of Life Science of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. They shared their insights and experiences in synthetic biology with specific reference to applications. Six of the iGEM teams from Hong Kong, including three high school teams and three university teams, presented their projects to the audiences. Valuable feedback and suggestions given by the panel of judges (comprising of ex-iGEMers) have inspired our iGEM team to adopt a more accessible and reasonable approach to plastic degradation.

The symposium has initiated a lot of discussions on synthetic biology and facilitated interactions between all six HK iGEM teams. Inspired by some of their meaningful ideas, we were able to refine our project aims and methodology by reviewing possible loopholes and disadvantages of our proposed idea.

To view the recording of the symposium, you are invited to visit the YouTube video linkand to view the brochure and event booklet, please go to this page.


Fig. 5: The brochure booklet designed by our iGEM team aimed to serve the following purposes: provide some background information on each iGEM team and invited keynote speaker, highlights of the event, inform prospective participants about the event and to promote synthetic biology.


Fig. 6: The Certificate of Participation of HK iGEM Symposium

Science Communication - Social Media

Our team has put a lot of effort into organizing various activities to introduce our iGEM project and the basic principles of synthetic biology to the general public. We have actively engaged with the general public by creating an Instagram (IG) page to share our ideas and messages about synthetic biology. Using the IG platform, we introduced and provided basic information about the aims of our iGEM project. In order to stay interactive with the followers of our IG page, we have been posting some memes and webcomics series to gain their sustained attention. Last but not least, we have also been using our Instagram account to promote some of the outreach events.


Fig. 7: QR code for our Instagram (IG).

We have introduced the background facts and overall aims of our project in order to raise the awareness of the general public to the plastic pollution problem, and hope to inspire more people to come up with creative ways and ideas to help protect the environment through synthetic biology.

We have created a series of webcomics to educate the general public about some general concepts and techniques used in synthetic biology, for instance, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), gene cloning, and gel electrophoresis. We hope that the audience will find it easier to understand these scientific concepts and techniques through graphical presentations.

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Fig. 8: Webcomics materials on IG.

In order to further promote synthetic biology to society, we have held several events to promote our project and synthetic biology, for instance, talks, symposiums, and an online survey. Due to the high accessibility and convenience, we have adopted these approaches as our promotion platform as well.


Fig. 9: Promotion materials on IG.

Science Communication - YouTube collaboration

Our team has collaborated with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) iGEM team to produce several YouTube videos. In the collaboration, our team has contributed various ideas on the use of modern technology in synthetic biology while HKUST team provided technical support including video animation and video editing. We hope that the videos can help the audience to gain more knowledge of synthetic biology and build up a continuous inspiration on the web.

The two youtube videos our teams produced are on genetic engineering. The first video is on modifying the gene of an organism to acquire a specific favourable trait. GM food and biomaterials were used as specific examples to illustrate the beneficial characteristics of genetic engineering.

The second video is about synthetic biology in animal breeding with specific reference to its benefits and feasibility. The video has also raised some commonly asked questions in regard to the ethical dilemma of whether one should create and breed transgenic animals with humanized organs for xenotransplantation. Another controversial issue that was addressed relates to the religious dilemma of whether such a technology could be applied to a man/woman with certain strong religious beliefs.


Fig 10. The thumbnail of the collaborated YouTube Videos

To learn more about the YouTube video, please check out HKUST iGEM team’s YouTube channel ‘iGEM 2020 HagBric’.

Science communication - Public talk

The CityU iGEM team co-organised and delivered an online public talk together with the HKUST team which was held on 18 October 2020. For this talk on “How can we tackle Plastic Pollution: Conservation and SynBio Approaches”, we had invited Mr. Gordon So (Conservation officer from the World Wide Fund of Nature Hong Kong) to share his experience and insights on the topic with the general public. The major aim of the event was to highlight the seriousness of the global plastic pollution problem, and the present need to reduce plastic bag usage, as well as updating the general public about the different projects that various green groups in society are pursuing to tackle plastic pollution.


Fig 11. The zoom capture of the public talk

In the talk, Mr. Gordon So (WWF representative), and the HKUST and CityU iGEM teams shared various approaches to tackle plastic pollution. Mr. Gordon So shared the vision of WWF and the ideology of circular economy in minimizing plastic waste production by turning plastic waste into useful resources. In the talk, we introduced to the general public the iGEM projects conducted at CityU and HKUST to address the plastic pollution challenge.


Fig 12. The promotion poster of the public talk

To view the recording of the public talk, you are invited to visit the YouTube video link at here.

CityU HK IGEM 2020