Education and Communication
We developed and implemented a variety of education and science communication materials related to synthetic biology, iGEM, depression, and our project, including:
1. Multiple Wechat articles. Some of the Wechat articles were created by us (the number of readers is limited), while other Wechat articles were created and distributed by Fujian Association for Science and Technology and Fuzhou Lakeside International School official accounts (the number of readers is far larger).
2. A promotional video about our project (posted on the Home page)
3. Information talks. We had two talks, one targeting college students, and the other one targeting kids. Through talks, not only did we speak to them, but we also distributed our brochures to them. After these talks, we received various feedback from our audience on synthetic biology, iGEM, and our project, and we patiently responded to their feedback and questions.
4. A skit to explain how our project works. FLIS Secondary students presented a vivid and wonderful adaptation of the skit based on the FZU-China team's picture book.
5. A picture book explaining how our project works, a brochure about depression, and another brochure about synthetic biology, iGEM, and our project. Our picture book and brochures provide a more interesting interface for promoting synthetic biology, iGEM, and our project. Our targeted audience of these materials is the general public, especially students. We created cute characters representing cells (villagers), GABA (soldiers), and depression (as "depression force") to help students without relevant biological backgrounds understand how our biological circuit can help alleviate depression.
More details about these materials can be found below.
Talk at Fuzhou University
On September 10, 2021, our team and FAFU-China of Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University held an information session for freshmen together. The info session, which started at 10 am, was aimed at popularizing and publicizing synthetic biology and iGEM competition, as well as introducing the two teams' projects this year to college freshmen.
After the inspiring opening by our PI, Dr. Guo, students' curiosity about the competition was ignited.
First, we listed some real applications of synthetic biology to help them understand the concept of synthetic biology. Students were fascinated by synthetic biology: anti-nicotine vaccines that can stop smoking, a carbonic anhydrase that can alleviate global warming by taking up carbon dioxide, bio-factories that can produce expensive drugs with cheap precursors, and new sunscreens that are more bio-compatible and environmental friendly. We also received interesting feedbacks from our freshmen. Our team leader asked what they thought about synthetic biology. Unexpectedly, a male student raised his hand and answered the question and summed up synthetic biology accurately. Then, our team leader introduced the important principles of synthetic biology: standardization, decoupling, and modularity. The principles were proposed by Professor Drew Endy of Stanford University. Synthetic biology is a comprehensive interdisciplinary subject, which can be compared with engineering. Students listened attentively, and their minds were following our captain's introduction.
After that, our captain introduced the iGEM competition from four parts, which consisted of the full name of the competition, basic information, global influence, and the contents of the competition. All of our team members were grateful to MIT for creating iGEM and felt honored to participate in it.
Next came the introduction of the project.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict of time, our partner, FAFU-China, could not attend the event in person. But they introduced their projects through a recorded video. Students here watched the video with curiosity and listened to our partner’s talk about their projects. After summarizing the project of FAFU-China, our captain began to introduce our team’s project to our freshmen. Our captain spoke slowly and carefully to make sure that everyone understood.
After the project introduction, we left the QR code of our team's questionnaire about depression on the screen. Students were enthusiastically filling out our questionnaire while our team leader posed a question: "What would you do with synthetic biology if you are as rich as Batman, that is if you were free from material constraints? Also, if you were participating in iGEM, what project would you do?" All of us were shocked by the scene that many freshmen students were scrambling to raise their hands, and eager to share their thoughts. "I want to transform lactic acid bacteria to produce some nutrients so that we can absorb a variety of nutrients without worrying about the imbalance of nutrition when we drink the special yogurt." said a male student in a military-green T-shirt. Then another male student in a striped shirt said, "I want to use biological macromolecules to make molecular devices, to imitate and make molecular machines that resemble biological macromolecules." More and more people raised their hands to share their ideas. One girl even boldly said, "I want to modify bone cells so that they can constantly divide and multiply so that we can grow taller!" Another student said, "I want to put a shield on the T-lymphocyte so that HIV cannot find it. Also, we can set up a few surveillance and tracking cells, and then let the modified macrophages kill HIV." Some want to transform cells to produce ginsenoside, some want to synthesize biological masks, and some want to invent super bacteria to suck up PM2.5... The whole lecture hall became lively. Time flew by, so we had to come to the end of the conversation. Our captain said, "You've just started your first year of college. I don’t know whether you are interested in your current major or not. If you are pursuing business prospects, social impact, and creativity, or you want to change the history of mankind, just come to synthetic Biology and join iGEM. When you go out into the world with a project that encapsulates your ambition, you may meet a group of like-minded people, then you will have the best answers in your mind."
After the talk, many students said to us: "Thank you, we have never thought that synthetic biology can be so interesting before."
Seeing many people scanning the QR code of the iGEM competition on the poster, we were filled with thousands of kinds of emotions. See the reactions from the audience, we were glad that we committed to this competition. Even if our project could not produce useful biological devices to change the world, we felt like we had already made an impact on the world by influencing what people thought of synthetic biology and what it could possibly be.
Talk at Fuzhou Lakeside International School (FLIS)
October 19th, 2021, at 3 pm, our team held a Synthetic Biology-iGEM talk at Fuzhou Lakeside International School, the only official international school in Fuzhou. Students, faculty, and staff of the school attended our session. Audiences included over 100 students ranging from 6th grade to high school.
While we mainly used English for the talk, we also translated some of the technical terms to Mandarin to help some students better understand our talk. We started the talk by first introducing some common biological species, such as animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and viruses. When talking about viruses, we used animation and body language to tell how the new coronavirus infects host cells. By using common objects to explain biology reduced the degree of complexity of biology. Then, we began to introduce concepts of cells and the genetic control center of cells - the nucleus. Then we introduced the genetic materials, namely DNA and RNA. When introducing cells and genetic materials, we used metaphor and anthropomorphics to help them understand.
Then we transitioned to topics about synthetic biology and iGEM. During the talk, we were actively interacting with students. At the same time, we also sincerely extended an invitation to them: if they want to learn more about biological experiments or participate in iGEM as a high school team, they are welcomed to come to our laboratory at Fuzhou University. After a brief introduction of our iGEM team members, I asked everyone to bring out the brochure that our team has already issued a few days before the talk. We began to talk about our team's projects on the brochure. First, I asked everyone about their awareness of depression. Judging from the interaction on the scene, most people did not know much about depression, and some people even felt incomprehensible about certain typical behaviors of depression patients. After our explanations, students should have a better understanding of depression. We also switched to Mandarin to popularize the key substance GABA in detail.
Immediately afterward, it was the most anticipated session of this talk. Before the Chinese National Day (Oct 1), our team PI contacted teachers of Fuzhou Lakeside International School and worked out a detailed plan for the talk. To help students without too much biology background to understand our project, we decided to have some students perform a skit about our project. The script of the skit is adapted from our project’s picture book. On the special day of October 19th, this skit finally debuted under the attention of everyone in the lecture hall!
After a lively and interesting skit performance, we interacted with students about the skit and the picture book. We ended up the talk by asking students if they were to start a project around synthetic biology, what they would do and what kinds of problems that they would like to solve using synthetic biology. With all the interesting and creative thoughts, we wrapped up the talk.
In September, our art "scientist" Lingsang Sheng produced our brochure. The brochure introduces the basic information of our project, picture book, depression, and iGEM. The brochure has been distributed to Fuzhou University students，FLIS students, First Affiliated Hospital of Fujian Medical University, and Fuzhou No. 2 Middle School students. Fujian Association for Science and Technology helped us popularize depression and our project via its official account and helped us to distribute our brochure via its distribution network. Besides, as part of our collaborations, NUDT-China and us decided to distribute brochures printed with projects of both teams. NUDT-China distributed the collaborated brochures through the local Popular Science Association and we distributed the brochures via Fujian Association for Science and Technology. The electronic versions of the brochures can be found below.
In September, Danyan Li produced a picture book based on our project. Our picture book is one of the important contents of the cell factory joint picture