- 1 Education
- 1.1 Lessons-in-a-box
- 1.2 Presentation series at Warwick School of Life Sciences (Freshers' Week presentation for new students and a BioCafe session)
- 1.3 Awareness Campaign on the Importance of Screening
- 1.4 International Conference of Undergraduate Research
- 1.5 Warwick Synergy Project
- 1.6 iGEM Nottingham Podcast
Our team strongly believes that engaging Education and effective Science Communication is integral to bringing synthetic biology and its myriad of useful applications into the acceptance of the public. We especially wished to target children and teenagers/young adults in schools and universities, as they are the prospective scientists of the future.
As part of our Science Communication initiative our team has organised and participated in educational and outreach events on both regional and international levels. We were able to adjust our initial plans and implement most of our planned projects into life. However, some activities, like school visits, museum presentations, seminars at the School of Life Sciences, and in-person awareness campaigns and workshops for students had be cancelled, due to the UK restrictions. Many of our members also had to return home due to the boarder closures, but we were lucky to be able to still continue the project (even with the 8 hours time difference between the members of the team!).
In collaboration with: iGEM UPCH Peru, iGEM Leiden, iGEM RUM, iGEM KCL, iGEM UCopenhagen, iGEM Vienna, Warwick BioSoc and University of Warwick Widening Participation Office
Our plans included visiting schools in Coventry (where our university campus is located), some of which included “Widening Participation”(WP) schools, where many students are members of under-represented groups such as low-income backgrounds, ethnic minorities and/or speak English as a second language. We wanted to share our knowledge and interest in synthetic biology with the middle school students through engaging face-to-face workshops and activities.
Very soon, the restrictions came into place all across the UK and the WP schools near us were majorly affected.
Our goal was to alleviate the pressure from the teachers, who had to suddenly change the curriculum into online format, and to make sure that the students are still getting quality education, especially those who have been affected the most. Therefore, we got in touch with the University’s Outreach Officers such as Ms Amanda Bishop, and the executive committee of the Warwick Biology Society who run yearly volunteering in these schools, to see how we could aid in their mission in the times of crisis.
We were advised to make online learning materials as part of 'Lessons in the Box' nationwide campaign rather than going into schools ourselves, as it would be highly complicated due to restrictions coming into action, so we switched to translating our in-person lessons into online resources, which would be accessible to all teachers and students. We aim for these lessons to be interactive and engaging supplementary materials to the national curriculum to expose young scientists of the countless possibilities of synthetic biology.
Once completed, these lessons are made freely available to any students or teachers who reach our to our iGEM team, or the University directly.
- Empower students to pursue STEM and spark interest in SynBio
- Explain the impact synthetic biology tools have
- Enable students to explore a new field outside their curriculum
We are currently collaborating with Warwick BioSoc volunteers and will continue this initiative after iGEM as part of their volunteering program.
Presentation series at Warwick School of Life Sciences (Freshers' Week presentation for new students and a BioCafe session)
Besides the school outreach Initiative, we wanted to share our project with the other undergraduate students on campus. So, we got in touch with the Warwick School of Life Sciences, who kindly gave us a slot at the University's Fresher's Week (an introduction week for the new students), where we presented our project to the cohort of 400+ students! The students were intrigued by out talk on the importance of early cancer screening and we hope this gave them a good idea of the opportunities they can get involved with at the University.
Due to a high demand at the fresher's talk, we were then invited to give a talk at a BioCafe session, which is a weekly pastoral and academic advice session hosted at the School of Life Sciences, where we spoke about the process of applying to the Warwick iGEM team for next year. We described how rewarding the process was for us and how doing an iGEM project means having to consider so many angles of science outside of labs (i.e. Human Practices, Outreach and Collaborations)! We hope that the session was informative and made attendees excited about the prospect of applying to iGEM in future years.
Awareness Campaign on the Importance of Screening
After seeing the shocking statistics that early detection of colon cancer can decrease mortality risk from 90% to 10%, we decided to take measures by spreading the word about this through our awareness campaign, spreading posters on campus and posting on social media with a hashtag #screening_saves_lives! Our reach on social media with the help of Warwick BioSoc has cumulatively reached 1450 people on Facebook and 550 people on Instagram. We also shared our materials with Cancer Research UK and Bowel Cancer UK. When Warwick University students came back to campus for the new term, we printed out the posters and to reduce unnecessary printing, we only displayed them in the areas with high student traffic, such as the Student's Union, library and the health centre.
International Conference of Undergraduate Research
After a successful application, we were invited to present at the International Conference of Undergraduate Research, a yearly event hosted by the Monash-Warwick Alliance. At ICUR, we were able to share our iGEM project to 200+ students from all over the world, including participants from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, University of Ljublana, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and University of British Columbia, just to name a few!
Warwick Synergy Project
As part of our outreach initiative, we decided to facilitate collaboration among researchers on Warwick University campus through creating an online platform. We created an Instagram page for the student researchers around the campus to post any vacancies available and for requesting any help they need outside their competencies. In the light of pandemic, researchers require more help from the external departments due to limited space in the labs and budget cuts, which is why student volunteers, who want to gain experience in the field are now useful more than ever.
We are looking forward to expanding our platform to other social media and other universities in the future.
iGEM Nottingham Podcast
iGEM Nottingham has kindly invited us to do an episode of their educational podcast series, where we chatted about our project and outreach plans, as well as the difficulties of working from home. We also addressed the lack of lab access and the challenges of adapting our project to dry lab amidst the chaos happening in the world and using a variety of softwares. The Nottingham team were able to facilitate great discussions especially as they held Q&As on their Instagram before hosting the podcast with iGEM teams. We're very grateful to be included in their great education efforts with the podcast.