As a team, we vowed to remember, encourage and engage those who are commonly
forgotten and dismissed.
Amongst other community parties and identities with less than equal representation in sciences, we identified three main groups: refugees, women, and artists.
• Unaccompanied refugee kids during the usually long wait before they are re-integrated in the society have less opportunities for education and engagement in science – we created a biology comic book and distributed it in refugee shelters to inspire, entertain and educate young kids.
• Studies have shown that women speak more freely in learning groups of their gender, so we organized a 4-day webinar to inspire and encourage young girls to pursue science.
• Through our expARTiment initiative, we set out to build bridges between science and art and demolish the stereotype of an only left or only right sided brain.
The percentage of girls to follow STEM carriers is low. Luckily that is not quite the case in the medical and biology fields, where things are almost 50-50 . Some people think this is enough and that the problem is solved.
SHE Figures 2021 , the last in a series of tri-annual EU reports on gender balance in research and innovation in Europe, finds that women are close reaching gender parity among doctoral students, but still are under-represented in technical professions (24.9% among EU self-employed scientists and engineering). Women are under-represented at the highest level in academia (42.3% of EU academic staff) and in decision making positions (only 23.6% of heads of EU higher education institutions), while they are significantly under-represented amongst inventors (only 10.7% are women).
Studies have shown that women experience empowerment in single-sex learning environments, where peer-tutoring and socializing is achieved more easily .
Based on those findings we decided to organize a 4-day webinar, designed, and designated for young girls interested in biology. Inspired by the coding webinar for young girls named “Code Girls”, organized by MATAROA, we decided to expand this beautiful idea, and created “Bio-Girls”, a webinar for girls of ages 10 to 15 that introduces the participants to basic biology, Synthetic Biology and Bioethics.
The workshop was organized and disseminated with the help of the Municipality of Alexandroupoli and the Technology Club of Thrace.
The workshop was designed around hands-on biology experiments performed at home, with the online guidance of our team members. The experience was complemented with short tutorials on biology concepts and inspirational interventions and discussions with women scientists.
Each day had a different subject:
Day 1: Human anatomy & cells
Day 2: Atoms, Molecules, Monomers, Polymers, Proteins, DNA & RNA
Day 3: Synthetic Biology
Day 4: Bioethics
You can read about the full curriculum and activities of “Bio – Girls” here.
A total of 24 girls signed up for “Bio-Girls” and 19 managed to follow through the whole webinar. As a preparation, a memoire, and a gift, we 3D printed small DIY DNA models, keychains that wrote “Bio-Girls”, and team leaflets, and distributed them to the participants’ home prior to the virtual event. At the end of the webinar, we also sent out Certificates of Participation.
We facilitated the activities by a central instructional presentation, but we continuously initiated conversations, encouraged questions at any point, and asked the participant’s opinions on various topics. We also conducted small experiments, debates, recreational tests, and quizzes but also a DIY structure of DNA to help with visualization. We accompanied that with 3 consecutive clues, that involved a crossword with biology words, and a simple cryptographic system using codons. The hidden message was revealed on the last day.
We were happily surprised to see that some participants started adding to our answers to help their classmates and proposed video links or articles for further study to them. The bioethics debate was tempestuous! Continuous disagreements based on facts or opinions, expressed in a kind and debate-competent manner.
As no theory can beat reality, we asked women to address the participants. Our PPI Prof. Eleni Kaldoudi, also a member of the IFMBE Women in Medical and Biological Engineering Working Group, with a long history of advocacy on gender gap in science, addressed the participants encouraging them to pursue science, if that is their passion, at any cost and contrast to any opinion. As a closing remark, the presenters emphasized the need for active women in science and urged participants to consider a career in biology and STEM.
We also expressed that we would be extremely happy to act as science mentors in case any girl decided to follow a science path.
Member of the team conducting an experiment during the webinar
After the end of the webinar, we asked the participants to evaluate the webinar in the aspects
of content difficulty,
dissemination, and overall experience.
We got an average of 5/5 of overall evaluation. 80% of the participants that evaluated us would definitely participate again in something similar, while 20% maybe would. Both the content of the webinar and our presentation methods were highly evaluated. We also received many positive comments.
 S. L. Eddy, S. E. Brownell, M. P. Wenderoth. Gender Gaps in Achievement and Participation in
Multiple Introductory Biology Classrooms.
Cell Biology Education, 2014; 13 (3): 478 DOI: 10.1187/cbe.13-10-0204
 She Figures 2021. The path towards gender equality in research and innovation (R&I), Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (European Commission), 2021
 L. Fuller, E.R. Meiners, Project Muse: Today’s Research, Tomorrow’s Inspiration, Frontiers, A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 26(1), 168-180, 2005
A report by UNICEF
estimates that 44,500 refugee and migrant children are currently in Greece, of which over
unaccompanied. Refugee children migrate, either with their families or unaccompanied,
due to fear of
persecution on the premise of membership of a particular social group, or due to the threat of
marriage, forced labor, or conscription into armed forces. For the majority of these children
formal education is a logistical nightmare, as Giulia Cicoli, advocacy director of Still I Rise
We designed an online educational experience for pre-teen unaccompanied refugee children currently accommodated in a local shelter. The activity was designed in close collaboration with the ARSIS: Association for the Social Support of Youth Non-Governmental Organization. ARSIS provides them with a home, medical care, covers their basic needs (food, clothing) and makes sure they continue their education, by providing Greek language lessons, integrating them into schools and afterschool activities. It also provides counseling sessions with trained psychiatrists and helps them locate their family and get in contact with them.
The educational experience we delivered exploited our Comic Book as a basis to communicate basic biology facts in a funny way to catch the kids’ attention.
The online activity was designed around a number of structured interactions and discussions to bring up problems encountered by this special population of kids and to attempt to accommodate their curiosity while respecting their unique situation and their unfortunate experiences.
Screenshot of our webinar activity with ARSIS
At the end of the presentation, we asked the kids the question “What would you change using
a question we had asked kids many times in communication events. The answers where surprising
- Use synthetic biology to give color to the smoke that comes in our home after a bombing.
- Make trees, flowers and plants grow faster, so we can have more oxygen.
- Make humans glow, so that we are not afraid while hiding.
- Change the brain of humans so that they are constantly happy and do not make. wars
The conversation was illuminating. We knew kids went through war and its horrors, but we had never grasped the full extent of the issue.
What we did is surely not enough to fix the problem. But by testing the limits of science, we tried to give them another perspective in life and encourage them to believe that anything they dream of is possible. We hope our comic educates, inspires and encourages them, but also we hope it will bring them the bit of joy and color they really deserve.
Our team learnt a lot via this open dialogue with refugee kids. We hope that we managed to offer them a bit of fun and knowledge in return.
The printed comics ready to be distributed to kids.
There is a common belief that there are two sides to each brain: right and left. The right one
is governed by logic while the left is the artistic one. This stereotype often enslaves
minds and keeps them detached from their artistic self, limits them to their field of study,
them believe that the creative world of arts is not for them to touch. Blocking any group of
in this case artists, from actual and positive interaction with science, is not in the best
Through our cooperation within the NOUS team on science and graphics and communication and entrepreneurship missions, we often found ourselves exploiting both logical and artistic thinking.
As a natural consequence, we freed ourselves from this stereotype and felt the need to communicate this to other teams. Our goal: let the world know science and art are and should be seen intertwined.
So we instigated the expARTiments initiative: We called out to other iGEM teams and invited them to show their work with an artistic touch. This would require bringing in artists and waking up the artistic part within each one.
Teams eventually involved in expARTiments: AFCM Egypt, Barcelona UPF, Estonia_TUIT, Greece_United, Mingdao, NU_Kazakhstan, SZTA_RMG_Szeged. They sent us photos of their experiments, meetings, labs, that they found artistic in their own way, and we created a mosaic to show every little moment in a big, meaningful picture. We want to thank them all for this amazing collaboration.
Mosaic made by all the photos
Here you can find the photos independently, including a description and credits.
All the photos from expARTiments
All this proves that science and art can be very close to each other and should be combined at
We know for a fact that science explains everything in our lives. So, the question that remains
Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?
We had the opportunity to participate in the collaboration “Rosalind Chronicles”
organized by the teams: Patras, Thessaloniki, ULaval and Concordia_Montreal.
They asked of us to send a group photo of our female team members, and a photo and a few words about a female scientist our team admires. We chose Vera Florence Cooper Rubin, a renowned astronomer with numerous contributions to the way we understand galaxies and dark matter up to today.
The result of the collaboration was a beautiful collection of remarkable women in STEM sciences, mostly of the past. A great reminder of all the beautiful minds that have formed today’s science, while most often than not, remained unrecognized for their work. This was our chance to pay tribute to them and say thank you for their work.
Next to the great females of the past, came a collection of the female team members of each team. The future scientists that hopefully will go on and advance the greatness that they were handed by their predecessors. We cannot wait to see them all excel!
You can find the Rosalind chronicles here