- Human Practices
We firmly believe that communication with society is the fundamental pillar of Science Communication, a way to build bridges to link science to society. Despite the efforts and sacrifices scientists and researchers have made in the name of science, we realized there is still so much misunderstanding and knowledge gap from the public. As fellow researchers, we felt it our responsibility to engage with the society and show them first-hand, be it through introducing synthetic biology or our project, the reason we are doing this.
In early 2020, in order to improve the influence of iGEM competition and regrouped our team: XMU-China 2020 team, we held an in-depth communication with undergraduates who were interested in synthetic biology. Three offline lectures and two offline promotion activities among the three campuses of Xiamen University were held to expand the popularity and influence of iGEM competition.
After that, we invited the undergraduates to join an online group for the follow-up selection and appointment and answer their questions about iGEM competition and synthetic biology at any time. About 200 students joined our online group and our selection. During the winter vacation, we conducted three training lectures for all the students in the online group to help them get familiar with the competition, enhance their background knowledge and strengthen their abilities in using synthetic biology tools and techniques. Eventually, through 4 rounds of selection and interviews, the XMU-China 2020 team was finally established.
With regard to the two offline promotion activities in XMU campuses, we have set up a showcase in the student square to display the project of the XMU-China 2019 iGEM team. We also prepared some interactive mini games of synthetic biology to help participants understand iGEM better.
As it is mentioned about, we held three training lectures on synthetic biology during the winter vacation for all students who joined the online group. The contents of the lectures included: a detailed introduction of synthetic biology, how to carry out literature retrieval, and how to use Snapgene software. The three lectures were completely open up on the internet and the literatures videos were also recorded for review. We tried our best to enrich students’ biological knowledge to the maximum extent.
Due to the epidemic of COVID-19, the team members were unable to return to campus and had to stay in their hometown. Taking the advance of staying-at-home, our team members decided to start a communication with high school students by several science popularization activities in their alma maters, and the main audiences were senior high school students who are about to enter college.
The team members entered the the classrooms and used presentations to introduce synthetic biology and iGEM to high school students (Click the link to view our slide file). They introduced iGEM's overview, history and development, described what synthesis biology is and transmitted the idea that we could use cell programming to change our world.
Many students have showed their interest in iGEM and synthetic biology. In addition, the team members answered their questions about synthetic biology and iGEM competition. We believed that after these senior students entering college, they would be more interested in joining their university’s iGEM team, and more likely to engage in synthetic biology research in the future.
In total, our team members have held five popular science activities in Fujian, Shandong, Chongqing and other provinces, about 300 senior high school students participated in the activity. Our team members also left the contact information for further consultation and question.
Therefore, we named this promotion as "The stars of the sky". Because of COVID-19, the team could not get together, but everyone was doing something for the public as much as possible.
XMU-China iGEM team held science popularization activities in Xiamen Science and Technology Museum in August to propagandize more for synthetic biology. The main audiences were preschool children and primary school students, as well as their parents. Our team members held two science popularization lectures on synthetic biology in morning and afternoon respectively, included with some interactive games and sitcoms. Besides, the team set up four showcases and arranged some basic games to popularize the knowledge of biology. More details about our design could be seen in the Planning Book.
First, we held a science popularization lecture for them (Click the link to view our slide file). Children were asked to observe their eyes, fingers and skin color with their parents and acknowledged that these appearance differences are determined by their genes, and helped them understand what heredity and variation are. The team also taught these children about the process of gene expression, which scientists can edit and then build organisms like building blocks. Finally, according to XMU-China 2020 project—— "AnTEA Glyphosate", the team members performed a sitcom about how detectives use engineering bacteria to detect glyphosate.
Furthermore, the team members designed a kind of stamp card named "circuit jigsaw". Four stamps which should be taped on the card represent four basic elements in the genetic circuit: promoter, RBS, target gene and terminator. The children needed to gain all four stamps by participating in four games to make the circuit express unimpededly. This game, visually displaying the genetic circuit, helped children and their parents understand the thoughts of engineering and modularization.
We also arranged some basic games:
(1) The Matching of Base Pairing: The complementarity of base in DNA molecules can be simulated by matching corresponding cards. Players could find the two sets of cards, “A & T” or “C & G”, to win this game.
(2) Breaking the code: By given a sequence of bases, the children can infer the corresponding amino acids from the codon table.
(3) Happy jigsaw puzzle: Let the children joint the glyphosate model with the parts. After the splicing, the GOX enzyme model was used to demonstrate the formation of new molecules AMPA and acetaldehyde by breaking down the corresponding chemical bonds in the enzymatic reaction, thus introducing the detection principle of glyphosate.
(4) Maze adventure: The children need to get three enzymes in the maze, and finally get out of the maze to win the game.
The designs of all these games combined interesting games and basic knowledge in biology together, which were loved by children and parents. The children in the hall even stood in long lines in front of the showcases to join in games. Many children and parents enthusiastically asked the team members for more biological principles and then became interested in XMU-China team and iGEM competition, which encouraged the members to work harder for promotion.
In China, Wechat public accounts are widely used by media and enterprises as a tool to increase publicity, by sending daily articles to fans who follow the account. This year, XMU-China signed up for its own Wechat public account and gained about 200 followers. In the past six months, XMU-China 's Wechat public account has posted about 30 articles and gain more than 3000 pageviews. The content of articles includes team promotion, popularization of synthetic biology, and sharing of some excellent projects of iGEM competition in previous years, or some excellent papers, etc.
We summarized some excellent iGEM’s projects and translated English information into Chinese so that they can be easily understanded by Chinese public to spread further. Similarly, we concluded some excellent papers related to synthetic biology and translated them to be read more.
In fact, we have established a channel to communicate with society. For example, some people in society who care about our team, including some after iGEMers, can also use this public account to follow the movements of the XMU-China iGEM team. In addition, many other Chinese iGEM teams follow "XMU-China" through this account, reading some iGEM competition project with us. More importantly, we can write and publish articles through this account and popularize synthetic biology and iGEM to more people.