Throughout the project, we partnered with Duke Kunshan University (DKU), our sister school in Kunshan, China, and collaborated through the team creation process as well as through project brainstorming and advising. In addition, we co-organized a mini Jamboree with DKU as an opportunity for iGEM teams around the world to meet and share their insights about synthetic biology and their project. During the event, we created SYN BIO, a collaborative educational outreach booklet.

Duke-DKU iGEM History

Duke Kunshan University (DKU) is our sister school in Kunshan, China. Like Duke, DKU set out to provide a transformative and innovative education to students around the world. In addition, students are given the opportunity to study abroad in both semesters, further cementing our status as sister schools. Since taking its inaugural class of undergraduate students in 2018, DKU has never had an iGEM team. Duke, on the other hand, has competed in the competition ever since 2006. Thus, when we learned about their interest in iGEM, we were beyond happy and excited to build a strong partnership between our teams.

Figure 1. Duke campus (left) and DKU’s campus (right)

Our Partnership

Collaborating through the team creation process

Starting a new iGEM team is hard; without the guidance from our predecessors, Duke iGEM would not be as established as it is today. Given this, we knew how integral outside support is for the formation of a new team and wanted to help fill this role for DKU as they embarked on their iGEM journey.

After securing all their funding from the university, the DKU team reached out to us and our advisors. From there, we maintained connections and guided each other through the process of taking an iGEM project from start to finish. As parts of the DKU iGEM team were studying on Duke’s campus this year, this made the brainstorming and troubleshooting process a lot easier as we were able to meet up and communicate with their team more frequently. Both of our teams were very active on social media, especially Twitter!

Figure 2. DKU iGEM twitter page

Project advising and collaboration brainstorming

In order to develop personal relationships with the Duke Kunshan iGEM team, a few of our members joined their team for lunch. Jiani Chen, the DKU iGEM student leader, spoke with us about their motivations behind their algae based project. In addition, we also presented the findings of our projects to each other and exchanged constructive feedback. Our collaboration with the DKU team continued with a brainstorming session in which we discussed community outreach, shared goals, and future collaborations such as our Duke x DKU Mini Jamboree.

Duke-DKU Mini Jamboree

As part of our partnership with the Duke Kunshan iGEM team, we aimed to create an event together where iGEM teams can learn about synthetic biology and connect with teams internationally. On September 12, 2021, Duke iGEM collaborated with the Duke Kunshan iGEM to host the Duke x DKU Mini Jamboree, which was an opportunity for teams to meet, present their projects, and learn more about synthetic biology. We invited 5 iGEM teams from around the world to participate in this virtual meetup, including Wright State (USA), Ulink College of SIP (China), Northeast Yucai Foreign Language School (China), Liverpool (China), and IISER Berhampur (India). To provide expert insight into synthetic biology research, we invited Dr. Xiling Shen from Duke and Dr. Linfeng Huang from DKU to present on their research.

Figure 3. Duke x DKU mini iGEM Jamboree

We designed this event to foster both research and community. To start off the conference, we prompted the teams to each share words that came to mind when thinking about synthetic biology and compiled it into a word cloud. During the jamboree, we organized a networking session where iGEMers discussed their interests in synthetic biology and planned a synthetic-biology themed pictionary game using! All teams worked together to collaboratively create SYN BIO, an educational outreach booklet featuring key synthetic biology terms. For more information, check out our Collaborations page