Team:KCL UK/Education


Our team has worked to produce different mediums of communication materials from presentations, infographics, and interactive zoom meet-ups to discuss the significance of synthetic biology, and specifically its uses in spinal cord injury.

Synthetic Biology Awareness

To bring awareness to the applications of synthetic biology in a range of fields, we have spoken at virtual meet-ups due to the coronavirus pandemic. At these meet-ups we engaged with not only people who are aware of and interested in synthetic biology (as in our society’s introductory event), but also with audiences in which members come from different sectors- such as policy makers, engineers, and historians (such as in the Climate Tea Talk event).

In reaching such broad audiences, we were able to convey advancements made in synthetic biology to professionals with different backgrounds, allowing for the intersectional approach to global issues, which ultimately contributes to the making of informed policies and technologies that continuously guide our world forward. Seeing as the events our team spoke at were free and open to the public, we aimed for our presentations and communication materials to be easily understood by individuals without scientific backgrounds.

Synthetic Biology vs Climate Change

Residence Tea Talks

At this event, hosted by King’s Residences, we discussed how different sectors across the globe are responding to the climate change crisis. While also hearing from lawyers, economists, and political theorists, our team spoke about how synthetic biology is a critical tool used to some issues such as waste, pollution, and coral reef bleaching.

Synthetic Biology Solutions to Climate Change

Following our Residence Tea Talks on Climate Change, we looked to create social media content allowing people to engage with applications of synthetic biology in the combat of the climate crisis. In this way, we were able to convey how synbio is used in coral engineering, bioplastics, and biofertilizers, giving our community examples to discuss and create conversation around specific uses of genetic engineering that makes the world a better and more liveable place. Our post, titled 'Combating Climate Change with SynBio' reached over 200 people through instagram. Our social media campaigns have reached hundreds of people, with around 200-300 people interacting with each of our posts about our project, infographics, and SCI/SynBio awareness. In this way, we are able to promote dialogue and discussion with different communities, from other iGEM teams, to university societies, and the general public as well.

Exploring Synthetic Biology: A discussion and introduction to KCL’s Biotech and Synthetic Biology Society

This year we have founded a Synthetic biology and biotechnology society at King’s to increase participation and awareness of the world of synthetic biology. We are particularly excited to engage with students and together explore solutions to the issues that face our world. At this event, we aimed to welcome new members to the society and discuss our ideas for the upcoming year as we plan to host academic talks, brainstorming sessions, and networking events so that iGEM and synthetic biology may reach a wider audience at King’s.

These slides we presented at our first Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology Society event where we introduced what synthetic biology, brainstormed potential applications, and made plans for the years events to come.

Biologix Competition: Accessible Opportunity Exploring Synthetic Biology

Financial cost of scientific endeavors is a significant barrier to communities. Whether it be participation in iGEM or other research, lab equipment and wet lab resources are expensive and can be an obstacle for students developing their ideas. To combat this issue we have developed the Biologix Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology innovation competition, in which students are able to research and deeply learn about a topic to develop protocols for a proposed solution. This competition model allows students to explore their interests, learn skills such as critical thinking and collaboration, while eliminating the cost of lab access and equipment. Details of Biologix can be found on the Biologix page, including our competition design and future plans for how this programme can facilitate education and inspire a passion for synthetic biology in high school students who are unable to partake in iGEM.

Here is the Biologix Handbook, produced as a guide for students who will take part in the Biologix Pilot and made open source so other iGEM teams can benefit from this outreach approach and introduce it to new regions, internationally.

Synthetic Biology vs. Covid-19

As our team has worked almost entirely virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, we aimed to raise awareness on how synthetic biology may be used to combat the virus. In an effort to clarify misconceptions not only on the virus, but also synthetic biology, we created dialogue around different experiences and perspectives during the pandemic. We aimed to spread awareness through creating discussion videos, conveying scientific research through infographics, and participating in podcasts.

Our video on Synthetic Biology vs Covid-19
Covid-19 Science Communication

As well as exploring Synthetic Biology and COVID 19, we created an education series of posts, which we shared on our social media, explaining relevant science related to COVID-19, virology and potential treatments that were being investigated to identify if the treatments could be repurposed for COVID-19. Each of these posts, which highlighted the current research, reached between 250-280 people.


We were happy to be invited to speak on the Pittsburg and Nottingham University iGEM podcasts to discuss synthetic biology, our projects, and teams. These podcasts were an engaging and informative method of communicating our teams ideas and visions of our projects, and the future of synthetic biology.

KCL iGEM x Pittsburg podcast

KCL iGEM x Nottingham Podcast

SCI Awareness Campaigns and Renervate

We have launched several instagram awareness campaigns related to spinal cord injury and its implications on mental health and disabilities. The infographics published allow viewers to engage with statistics and information that creates awareness towards holistic SCI. Our campaigns thus bring SCI to discussion, and through this allow the public to engage with and learn about synthetic biology and its uses in global challenges.

As a part of our science communication, we created targeted campaigns discussing the general problem of spinal cord injuries, the importance of language surrounding these debilitating injuries and highlighted the limitations brought by these injuries, alongside communicating the field of synthetic biology as a whole.

We began our campaign by publishing a short series on the pathophysiology of the glial scar formed post a spinal cord injury. We published diagrams and an infographic underlining the main properties of the spinal cord and the pathogenesis of the glial scar; we ensured these campaigns were easily understandable and facilitated our audience’s understanding.

Spinal cord injury can cause the development of syringomyelia – a fluid-filled cyst within the spinal canal. Haemorrhage, ischemia/vasospasm occlusion, inflammation, apoptosis, necrosis, excitotoxicity, oxidative damage etc can cause cavitation, inhibitory scar formation and edema thus damaging the spinal cord and causing pain, weakness, and stiffness among other symptoms. This post reached 396 people.
A cascade of pathological events occurs after a traumatic spinal cord injury where the zone of primary injury can expand due to secondary injury. These inflammatory cascades lead to secondary tissue damage, axonal loss, and demyelination forming a cystic cavity. Scar formation around the cavity forms a physical and chemical barrier to axonal regeneration. Our hope is that the renervate insert will be able to support axonal regeneration and improve outcomes for spinal cord injury patients. This post reached 346 people.

With our SCI awareness campaigns we raised awareness of physical, and mental health, as well as SCI prevention which can be found on the Inclusivity page. This also has a dual benefit of communicating synthetic biology and it’s potential benefits as we have designed a synthetic biology approach to SCI with the use of mussel foot proteins. To communicate our synbio approach we created several illustrations to highlight the adhesion mechanism of the protein. Our MFP adhesion mechanism illustrations reached 350 people.

This was then followed by the introduction of our campaign portraying the social implications of spinal cord injury, which was later accompanied by the celebration of spinal cord injury awareness month in September. On discussion with the Spinal Cord Injury association we understood the ramifications of using inappropriate vocabulary and used the knowledge we learnt from attending their cafe to start a series discussing the importance of the words we use in a conversation, different strategies patient’s presenting with spinal cord injuries can use to ensure their maintaining a high quality of life. Similarly, we released informative posts on the utilisation of holistic therapies and the issue of accessibility in the UK. These series were tailored to bring to light the diverse topics that are often overlooked when discussing the trauma of spinal cord injury.

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Spinal cord injuries can drastically alter your rhythm of life but with the right knowledge and support it won’t stop you from living your life to the fullest. The initial adjustment to life after an SCI is always the most difficult but by establishing a new routine and ensuring your sphere of influence promotes personal growth, the transition won’t be as daunting. This post reached 396 people . Our social media campaigns have reached thousands of people, as around 300 people interact with each of our posts about our project, infographics, and SCI/SynBio awareness. In this way, we are able to promote dialogue and discussion with different communities, from other iGEM teams, to university societies, and the general public as well.

This multi-faceted approach not only provided insight on the scientific foundation of the trauma but allowed a deeper understanding of each dimension implicated by this traumatic injury. We received positive reviews by our audience and participated in discussions on how each concept has informed them.