How we reached out


Education and communication are essential parts for all scientific areas, of course as well for synthetic biology and thus iGEM. Education is needed for safe practice and upbringing of new researchers within the fields, and communication to establish contacts and spreading the word of the research which has been conducted. The level of education can differ, and can be done in several ways. We have mainly focused on reaching out to a younger audience, trying to spark interest in the synthetic biology field and its many applications, but we have also reached out to the general public as well as trying to inspire other iGEM teams about current state-of-the-art research within the field.

JENSEN Gymnasium / High School

We have held several lectures at different high schools / gymnasiums. One of them being JENSENs gymnasium where we held lectures for several 1st year high school students in the natural science programme. An important part of holding lectures is to realise the level of knowledge of the listener, and adjusting the content accordingly. For freshmen of high schools in the natural sciences program in Sweden they have barely begun doing much lab work, or started going into much detail about biological functions, especially not in microscopic or genome scales. As such we started the presentation by explaining the different parts of life, and slowly going further into detail about what DNA and genes are, and eventually going in to how they can be edited and thereby introducing them to the concept of synthetic biology.

We talked about the genomic resemblance between different species and how studying one simple organism, such as e. coli, can provide valuable information about more complex biological systems, such as mammals. We talked briefly about how one can modify the genome of organisms to get new desired functions not native to the organism. This lead us to talking about areas of application, focusing especially on projects created by students, e.g., iGEM projects, including our own. This was our attempt at sparking interest in a younger audience, an audience who could potentially be part of upcoming years iGEM team. We aimed to let them know that their current studies are actually not too far from really inspiring application areas, applications which in some cases can be life changing for many people.

Nothing is perfect the first time around, as wasn’t our presentation so we asked the students to give us feedback on how they experienced the presentations. The feedback was mostly positive, with great suggestions on improvement from the students. They suggested that we should go into more detail when explaining the structures of DNA, as well as how to actually modify the genes to gain the wanted characteristics. Overall, they showed great interest in the actual theory behind our iGEM project. We took the feedback, modified the presentation according to it and held a second lecture receiving more and better feedback the second time around, still at the same school.

Additionally, we handed out flyers containing information both about synthetic biology in general, our project and our blog, the transcriptome, where the content is aimed at high school student.

Hvitfeldtska Gymnasium / High School

Our next high school visit at Hvitfeldtska posed new challenges, as the students were 3rd year students studying the natural science programme with focus on microbiology and medicine, meaning that they had more knowledge and experience in the topic synthetic biology. It was brought to our attention that they were about to start laboratory work doing for example PCR and transformations in E. Coli. This implied that we had to raise the level of the actual content and detail of our presentation, so we went into greater detail about the microorganism which we mainly worked in, yeast, and genes and gene modification techniques and more specifically what our project included. Since they specialised in medicine, we shifted our application area examples to include more examples of iGEM teams which have developed projects with a medical application, and there are plenty to choose from. We especially included old iGEM projects from our university, since we thought it would make it more relatable being a university in the same city.

Similar to the students in the JENSEN gymnasium, we received great feedback and seemed to spark interest not only in the students but also in the teachers. We discussed how it might be possible to make high school projects* relating to iGEM projects at Chalmers. Also, made them aware of high school iGEM projects and teams. We established a great relationship with the schools and they were positive to the idea of this being a yearly thing.

*Typically, each high school student does a one-year project in Sweden in their 3rd year to finish off their high school studies.

Chalmers course: Ethics in Biotechnology

Going a couple of levels up yet again we decided to hold a lecture for 1st year biotechnology master students at Chalmers in a course about ethics in biotechnology. This time the students listening were at a similar level in their studies as ourselves. The content of the presentation was again changed to be more in depth. So we went into more detail about which genes we are actually modifying and why, as well as the consequences and impact of our project if it were to be implemented in industry. While the actual presentation posed a bigger challenge, it was more interesting and we gained more insight from working with the presentation and receiving discussion points and arguments from the students and teacher. Because of the nature of the course, the ethical part of both synthetic biology in general and specifically our project was the focus of discussion.

Before the actual presentation we sat down with the professor in charge of the course and discussed the impact of our project and consequences and needs it would have when or if implemented. Being an expert in the field who had worked with similar projects which have required reasoning in ethics we gained lots of new insight of our project from the course lecturer. This insight was then incorporated in the human practices part of the project.

Nordic iGEM Conference (NiC)

During the planning of our conference, it was proposed to have NiC be an open event to the public and other, non-participating iGEM teams by streaming it live. Usually, the conference is a closed event were only the participating teams are included but this year, since we intended it to be hosted semi-live, we recognised that we had the possibility to also stream it live towards the general public. As such we could also include some kind of education, or spread awareness of synthetic biology to a broader audience.

Taking this idea into practice we decided to first and foremost ask each participating team to both present their project at a level where the general public could understand, as well as in enough detail to keep the content interesting for other teams and listeners with a scientific background. This would then both let people with a small interest in the scientific field see what possibilities and application areas exists within synthetic biology, and inspire teams and people in the field.

We then decided on what platforms we could use to host the event, keeping in mind where we would be able to reach as many people as possible. We decided to host the livestream on Facebook, which is a seemingly large social media platform in Sweden and also the platform where our team has the most followers. Knowing that not everyone has or uses Facebook we also recorded most of the conference (asking of course for permission) and put it up on Youtube where everyone can view it and also keeping the recording on Facebook for those who missed it. Of course, we have made several promotions of the event on all our social media platforms as well mentioning it to friends and families, which we also suggested the participating teams to do. Counting all together we have reached over 1000 people, with over 6 hours of content.

Secondly, we also offered several professors, researches, and experts within their field to present their work for participating teams. This time around we didn’t record the event, since the content was intended for people with more experience within synthetic biology. As such we decided to keep it close, unrecorded and mainly for the participating teams. Nevertheless, the content was great and went into depth about several complex areas within synthetic biology and its applications, and was a great and inspiring way to learn from researchers very experienced in the field.

The Transcriptome

The transcriptome is a blog with content intended to teach various scientific topics to whoever stumbles upon it. It is completely free and written using a simplistic language as well as offered in multiple languages. You can read more specifics about The Transcriptome on our partnership page as it is our longest continuous collaboration. The Transcriptome has been a great way to spread knowledge in a simplistic manner, and we as hosts also learn a lot by reading other people's posts. On The Transcriptome each contributor can write about any scientific area or concept they are interested in, the posts tend to however most often relate to synthetic biology which makes it even more interesting to read about as an iGEM participant.

As specified, the contents of the posts are supposed to be aimed for the general public, and we have set as a standard that the posts should be written towards high school students. Using this as a standard for the knowledge level of our intended audience we believed that we could reach the most amount of people.


As mentioned, we decided to create flyers that was distributed both around our campus at Chalmers but also around schools which we visited. The flyers, although brief and not including much scientific information were designed to spark interest in synthetic biology, our project and the transcriptome. As such we kept the information to a minimum but promoted where more information could be found.

Social media

Throughout our project have we had a very active presence on social media, where we have continuously been spreading the word about our project but also about synthetic biology in general. Through our different social media platforms, we have communicated with the public and other iGEM teams. Our main platforms for communication have been Instagram, Facebook, our own NiC Slack and the general iGEM Slack.