Team:Stony Brook/Education

Team:Stony_Brook/Education -
Education and Engagement

Since its founding back in January 2003, iGEM has been dedicated to making science more accessible to the people. In the modern area, there’s a growing divide between Academia and the populace, leading to a harmful disconnect between each group. In essence, some people don’t trust what science has to say. The Stony Brook 2020 iGEM team has continued to take on the challenge to educate the public on synthetic biology in an honest and transparent manner. Specifically in relation to our project, we hope to convince the public that GMOs are not as “scary” as they seem.

  • Local high schools have been closed since mid-March but our team wanted to educate the youth on synthetic biology and the iGEM foundation. We took on this challenge by scheduling a Zoom call with Shoreham-Wading River High School, located in Shoreham, New York, which one of our members, Julia, is an alumni of. During the call, four members of our team presented to an AP Research class. Our members talked about the iGEM competition, synthetic biology, our project this year, and research opportunities at the collegiate level. To ensure that the students (and teachers) grasped our presentation, we tested them with a fun Kahoot! After the presentation, we were really happy when a student reached out to us on instagram and asked us about online lab opportunities for high school students. We were able to provide the student with some of the programs we knew of.

  • Our team took the opportunity to speak with the incoming class of freshmen in the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), which two of our members, Melissa and Justin, are current members of. CSTEP prepares historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students at Stony Brook University for entry into scientific, technical, health, and health related professions. During this Zoom call, five members on our team talked to an audience of 52 people about synthetic biology and our project. During the presentation, we also discussed how iGEM is more than just research and that our team welcomes students from all majors, not just biology. Lastly, we were able to mention unique research opportunities, including iGEM, that are present on campus.

  • On July 30th, we along with our advisor Dr. Gergen, got to meet with a group of high school students involved in a virtual summer program coordinated by the American Museum of Natural History. We believed that engaging with this pre-freshman group would provide them early insight into how research is conducted at the collegiate level and help them understand that their diverse backgrounds can bring so much to the team! Throughout the course of this meeting, we discussed our transition from high school to college, some of the opportunities available to undergraduate students, and our involvement in this year’s iGEM team. We also discussed an overview of our project and took questions regarding our involvement in undergraduate research.

  • The Stony Brook Alumni Association and the Undergraduate Biology Program hosted the Virtual Biology Town Hall to allow Stony Brook alumni to get a sense of what goes on in Stony Brook even after they have graduated. Here, alumni got the opportunity to learn about the Undergraduate Biology Program and the life sciences at Stony Brook, undergraduate research programs, the medical and residency programs at the Renaissance School of Medicine, and the graduate programs at Stony Brook University. We were really appreciative of the opportunity to talk about our project and iGEM as a whole and discuss how the current pandemic has affected our plans with regards to research. During this presentation, we gave Stony Brook alumni a glimpse into the problem of GMOs potentially giving rise to increased gene flow, how we hope to solve it, and how we hope to implement our kill switch in the real world. We hope presenting to this group of ~30+ alumni exemplifies the resilience of our team and the hard work we put into our project despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • At Stony Brook University, there are six Undergraduate Colleges for incoming freshmen and each college has a 101 class that helps freshmen get acclimated to college life. Two of our teammates, Aneeqa and Julia are TA’s for such classes and both thought that it would be a great idea to host an event for freshmen where we speak about our work and raise awareness of getting involved in research / other activities. During this presentation, 7 of our team members spoke to an audience of ~20 students about what it is like to be on a student led research team. We highlighted that iGEM is an experience like no other as no one particularly oversees us, giving us the liberty to do research on our own. We also discussed how iGEM is not just about biology and research and that it has a lot of other components as well, such as modeling, web development, outreach, human practices, etc. As this was our last outreach event for iGEM 2020, we were able to discuss our project in depth with the students and really show them how something is genetically modified. We did this in hopes of spreading awareness that GMOs are not as scary as everyone makes them.