Use of social media: Instagram and YouTube
This is the age of social media, and more than 85% of the Hong Kong population uses social media (DataReportal, 2021). As such, the best way to reach out to the general public to promote and to obtain relevant feedback and opinion on our iGEM project is through the effective use of social media.
In the present generation, Instagram stands on the top of the social media food chain and we decided to make good use of Instagram to publicize our iGEM project. We used Instagram (@igem_cityu) with the tags #variecure, #syntheticbiology, #igem2021 to promote iGEM, synthetic biology and our team to the general public. We have gathered hundreds of followers from various backgrounds including members of other local iGEM teams and fellow students from their universities or schools, as well as the general public on our social media platforms.
We posted our laboratory work on the stories and saved them to our highlights to keep the promotional site active. We also used the social media platform to announce our different outreach activities, collaborations with other local iGEM teams as well as the series of educational talks presented to international high schools. Moreover, we uploaded our team-developed educational comics on the diverse applications of synthetic biology, and various synthetic biology laboratories to attract the attention of teenagers and the general public. We also uploaded our promotional video and a vlog about the 2021 Hong Kong iGEM Symposium which gathered over 300 views. Apart from Instagram, we have also uploaded our vlogs and promotional videos on YouTube (CityU iGEM) to further publicize and promote the iGEM Competition and many of the Hong Kong iGEM projects.
Figure 1. CityU iGEM social media
Hong Kong iGEM Symposium Vlog
1. To prepare a vlog of the Hong Kong iGEM Symposium held at the HKUST to educate the general public on the applications of synthetic biology.
2. To promote Synthetic Biology through social media to reach a larger audience in meaningful ways.
The vlog captures on video the 2021 Hong Kong iGEM Symposium that was organized by the HKUST iGEM Team. It includes an introductory section on the iGEM Competition as well as presentation clips of the projects by other Hong Kong iGEM teams. We made the vlog in a less technical manner in the hope to raise public interest in synthetic biology and awareness about iGEM.
In the second half of the vlog, we have included short interviews with members from different iGEM teams in Hong Kong. They were asked to share their reasons for joining the iGEM competition as well as feedback on the project presentations by other teams in the symposium. For some, the reasons for joining the iGEM included a great interest in synthetic biology while some took part as part of their school activities. As for the feedback on project presentations, most of the respondents said that all the presentations were interesting and the aims of the projects were clear and well explained. The high school teams were especially remarkable as they could conceive of interesting genetic engineering strategies to achieve specific aims at their young age. Overall, all of the interviewees expressed appreciation on the projects presented at the Symposium and looked forward to enjoying the journey on iGEM.
(Link to the video)
Comics - VarieComic
Since comics/manga are common and popular in Hong Kong and in South-east Asia, producing and publishing a cute comic on synthetic biology online will attract Hong Kong students and many other manga fans to our Instagram page.
Episode 1&2 - Experimental techniques
VarieComic episodes 1 & 2 are organized into 4-panel comic strips and published on our team’s Instagram page. It shows how the dynamic forensic duo Detective Curie and Dr. Rekcy operate and solve crimes together. Crime Scene Investigators find valuable evidence at crime scenes by extracting sources of DNA and then performing PCR followed by gel electrophoresis for DNA fingerprinting to match the prints to identify the perpetrator.
This comic strip is aimed at the general public especially secondary school students. We hope to build their interest in biological techniques through a fun art style in story form to explain the wide range of applications of synthetic biology.
1. Detective Curie (24) – She is an active Forensic Scientist and Crime Scene Investigator, the police always call on her for her expertise. She is incredibly smart, second only to her younger brother and partner Rekcy. Curious since birth, she loves solving puzzles and figuring out how things work. The only time you can take her away from a good puzzle is when she smells something delicious, a voracious foodie she especially loves Japanese curry.
2. Dr. Rekcy (17) – A boy genius with an IQ comparable to Stephen Hawking, Rekcy finished his PhD in Genetics at the young age of 16. He is what you would call a “science nut” and spends most of his time experimenting in his lab. He loves only two things as much as DNA. First is his sister Curie whom he has partnered to arrest several criminals using the “power of science”, and he has always found himself having fun with her. Second is anime, he loves watching detective and shōnen anime, his favourites are Case Closed and Dr. Stone.
Figure 2. Detective Curie and Dr. Rekcy featured in the VarieComic series
Figure 3. VarieComic series episode 1
Figure 4. VarieComic series episode 2
Episode 3 - Discovery of Drugs
VarieComic episode 3 is a 10-panel comic strip published on our team’s Instagram page. It shows how the unlucky boy, Colin, got help from Dr. Rekcy after he knew he had lung cancer. The comic shows the problem of drug shortages for cancers and the hope of novel medicines created by applying the techniques of synthetic biology. The cancer drug was discovered under the passion of Dr. Rekcy by applying some biological techniques such as PCR, gel electrophoresis and genetic recombination, to obtain variecolin analogues which have anti-cancer properties in its natural form, and finally Colin became hopeful again with the newly-invented drug. Again, we aimed to arouse audiences’ interest in drug discovery through an enjoyable craft and raising their concern on the issue of lack of effective drugs for cancer therapy., It is hoped that storytelling, we could inspire young people to gain more knowledge and interests in synthetic biology.
1. Rekcy (17) - refer to the above description.
2. Colin (15) - He is the unluckiest boy ever. He always encounters bad weather, not to mention he always gets flipped by banana skin while walking on the street and hit by bird feces. He is weak and gets sick from time to time, so he always appears to have a haggard look and a skinny body. His mother bought him a closet of clothes with the word - “LUCK” on it so it could bring him good luck. He is self-abased and negative. He thought his life was full of darkness and was always depress until he met Dr. Rekcy.
Figure 5. Unlucky boy Colin from VarieComic series
Figure 6. VarieComic series episode 3
Figure 7. VarieComic series episode 3
Synthetic Biology in the Modern Word: International Talk Series
The data from our public opinion survey made it clear to us that many people are still not aware of what synthetic biology is, what it can do, and how important it is for future innovation and development. Furthermore, we also learnt of the lack of public awareness of genetics and about the iGEM competition.
Hence, we decided to organize a series of talks on synthetic biology, and about iGEM as well as about our team’s iGEM journey. We thought the best demographic to target this talk would be secondary school students. They are not narrowed by a major like university students and they are still looking for their passions and what they want to do in the future. We even went a step further and decided to go global with our talk series beyond the confines of Hong Kong.
The Educational talks for international schools were conducted through Zoom meetings to educate high school students on what ‘synthetic biology’ is with specific reference to its relevance in the world today.
We managed to organize 4 talks with participation from 3 high schools from India, Vietnam and Hong Kong. They included:
1. Bishop Cotton Boys’ School, India
2. Renaissance International School, Vietnam
3. United Christian College Kowloon East, Hong Kong
Figure 8. Poster for International Talk Series
Through the four educational talks, and together with the high school students in these countries, we explored and discussed:
1) synthetic biology and its application,
2) the iGEM competition and,
3) our project - VarieCure.
We ended the talk with an engaging kahoot quiz, to not only get the participants more involved but also check whether they learnt anything new.
(Link to the presentation)
India – Bishop Cotton Boys’ School
Our first talk in the series was held on 16th August with Bishop Cotton Boys’ School in Bengaluru, India. The students (20 in attendance) and teacher-in-charge, Mrs. Neelika Joel, were quite active in the session and also in the kahoot.
Figure 9.1. CityU iGEMers in a conference with students of the Bishop Cotton Boys’ School
Figure 9.2. CityU iGEMers in a conference with students of the Bishop Cotton Boys’ School
Figure 9.3. CityU iGEMers in a conference with students of the Bishop Cotton Boys’ School
Vietnam – Renaissance International School
Our second and third talks took place on the 23rd and 26th of August, respectively, with the Renaissance International School in Saigon, Vietnam. The first was with the 12th grade students (4) and the second was with the 10th grade students (47).
The students and Mrs. Lucia were greatly interested in our project and the iGEM competition. They asked many questions about the experimental procedures that we were using for our project such as HPLC and NMR for metabolite analysis, as well as the safety of our natural products and the potential dangers of genetic mutations.
Figure 10.1. CityU iGEMers in a conference with students of Renaissance International School
Figure 10.2. CityU iGEMers in a conference with students of Renaissance International School
Figure 10.3. CityU iGEMers in a conference with students of Renaissance International School
Hong Kong – United Christian College Kowloon East
Last but not least, our fourth talk was held on the 11th of October with United Christian College Kowloon East, Hong Kong. About 30 students from grade 8 to 10 and co-ordinating teacher, Ms. Tsz Yau Pan, participated and showed great attention to our presentation and Kahoot quiz.
The students and Ms. Pan participated quite enthusiastically in our kahoot quiz. And even though the students were quite young they showed a good understanding of our project, and promptly answered all of the kahoot questions with good accuracy – it was our quickest session!
Figure 11.1. CityU iGEM iGEM team in a conference with students of United Christian College Kowloon East
Figure 11.2. CityU iGEM iGEM team in a conference with students of United Christian College Kowloon East
Figure 11.3. CityU iGEM iGEM team in a conference with students of United Christian College Kowloon East