All India iGEM Meet
The All India iGEM Meet was a three-day virtual conference of Indian iGEM teams held from 23rd to 25th July 2021. The conference was organized by teams IISER Pune, IISER Tirupati, IISER Bhopal, IISER Berhampur, IISER Thiruvananthapuram, and MIT MAHE. The aim of the meet was to get Indian iGEM teams familiar with each other and their projects, explore potential points of collaboration, and gain valuable feedback on their projects.
The conference included project presentations by all ten participating teams, which were evaluated by a panel of judges; talks and webinars; interactive sessions with the iGEM Asia and Global ambassadors; and fun synthetic biology-themed games. Over 300 participants attended the event.
By presenting their projects in front of some of the most experienced in the field, as well as other iGEM teams and the general public, teams received critical feedback that they could integrate to improve their projects.
The conference also provided an opportunity for teams to interact with the general public, spread awareness, and gain insight into the problems they were looking to solve. It also served as a platform to hone their presentation skills and prepare them for their presentations at the Jamboree.
Our team organized the SynBio Pictionary event on day 1, presented our project on day 2, and hosted day 3 of Project Presentations with MIT MAHE and IISER Berhampur.
We were also involved in the administrative and logistical aspects of organizing the conference, such as preparing the schedule for the event, finding and contacting prospective speakers and judges, coordinating with iGEM ambassadors, and conducting social media outreach for the event.
We were thrilled to have been a part of the organizing committee, and we hope that all attendees had a fruitful experience.
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to everyone who attended the event and made it a resounding success.
The speaker panel included:
- Dr. Archana Chugh, IIT Delhi
- Tanvi Kale, IISER Pune
- Dr. Radhakrishnan Mahadevan, University of Toronto
- Dr. M S Madhusudhan, IISER Pune
The ambassadors who helped us plan the event:
- Shruti Sridhar, iGEM Asia Ambassador 2021
- Varsha Jaisimha, After iGEM Coordinator 2021
- Avadhoot Jadhav, iGEM Asia Ambassador 2021
- Soumodeep Sarkar, iGEM Asia Ambassador 2021
- Carolina Elizondo, Global Ambassador Program Coordinator 2021
- Onkar Date, Regional Head for the APAC region at iGEM EPIC 2021
The judges who provided invaluable feedback:
- Dr. Chaitanya Athale, IISER Pune
- Dr. Amjad Hussain, IISER Bhopal
- Dr. Archana Chugh, IIT Delhi
- Zixin R, former iGEM Judge
- Priyannath RS, Chair of the Education Network, After iGEM
The attending teams:
- IISER Tirupati
- IISER Thiruvananthapuram
- IISER Berhampur
- IISER Kolkata
- IISER Mohali
- IISER Bhopal
- IISER Pune
- NIT Warangal
- MIT MAHE
In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the potential of cyanobacteria as a chassis for carbon capture and sustainable bio-manufacturing applications. Given that the field is still developing, very few and scattered resources are available for cyanobacterial engineering. To bridge this gap, we conceptualized a symposium for iGEM teams working with this chassis in collaboration with teams Stony Brook, Honk Kong HKU, and Toulouse.
We aimed to connect iGEM teams working with cyanobacteria to experts in the field and other teams for potential collaborations through this symposium.
The symposium kicked off on Day 1 with project presentations made by participating teams, evaluated by our panel of judges. Our panel included Dr. Himadri Pakrasi from Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Gordon Taylor from Stonybrook University, and Dr. Daniel Ducat from Michigan State University. They critically evaluated the teams' project ideas and provided vital feedback to help refine their projects. The symposium was attended by eight teams, six of which presented their projects to the judges.
Day 2 of the symposium was open to all the iGEM teams and included workshops, talks, and lots of fun games. It started off with the wiki workshop organized by our team. We brought together a panel of experts to answer questions from iGEM teams pertaining to all aspects of wiki design and development. The panel of experts consisted of Shivaramkrishna Srinivasan (Asia ambassador, 2021), Jonatan Baggman (Linkoping, 2019), and Baldur Vilhjalmsson (SDU-Denmark, 2020), of which two are iGEM Alumni from teams that bagged the best wiki title in their respective years of participation.
The next event was a talk by Dr. Tiago Selao about a newly discovered, robust cyanobacteria strain, Synechococcus elongatus PCC 11901, organized by team Hong Kong HKU. The talk was aimed at creating awareness about the advancements in ongoing cyanobacteria research.
The final event consisted of games organized by team Toulouse. It was a fun and rejuvenating end to the event where all teams got together and celebrated the efforts they had put in for the symposium and the competition.
We would like to thank the organizing and participating teams for their cooperation and help in making this event a success. We would also like to thank the judges, panelists, and experts who attended the symposium and left the teams with a great learning experience. We would also like to thank our audience and hope that the attendees left with a greater appreciation and understanding of the rather enigmatic cyanobacterial chassis.
Our team collaborated with teams MSP-Maastricht, Aachen, and IISER Tirupati to conduct an international survey on the general public's understanding and attitude towards synthetic biology and the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The survey was conducted through Google Forms and received around 259 responses from Asia, Europe, America, Africa, and Australia.
The objective of the survey was not only to understand people's perception towards GMOs but also to analyze whether their perception was influenced by the geographical region they belonged to.
The survey was translated into French, German, Bulgarian, and Turkish to make it accessible to a more significant number of people.
We are delighted to have been a part of this collaboration and hope that the iGEM teams' outreach efforts will help dispel common myths surrounding GMOs in the public narrative and create a more positive perception of GMOs.
Team Guelph organized an initiative to interview iGEM teams from across the world to create informational material on synthetic biology and its applications for high school teachers and students in Canada. They aimed to make synthetic biology more accessible to high school students and to encourage participation in scientific research.
They created a survey to interview other iGEM teams about their project ideas, motivations, and experimental and modelling work. They edited our written responses to these questions to create a 3-page pamphlet, summarising and outlining our project idea in an engaging format for young students.
The team also met to discuss possible video material we could create to answer questions raised by the school kids, but we were unfortunately pressed for time to contribute. We would like to take this opportunity to applaud Team Guelph for their fantastic initiative. We loved being a part of it! Introducing science to young minds in the right way leads to the creation of good scientists, and we were glad to be able to do our bit.
The iGEM Linkoping team this year is working on the desalination of water using cyanobacteria. We met with them early on in the iGEM cycle to exchange our project ideas and discuss methods of working with cyanobacteria. We also had a meeting with them about mathematical modelling, where we answered some of their questions on how they could get started on their modelling. We discussed different types of programming languages they could use and various modelling techniques they could explore to answer the kind of questions they wanted to solve.
The Linkoping team helped us out by circulating our Human Practices survey for high-school students in their communities.
Team Toulouse INSA-UPS
We have collaborated extensively with this year's iGEM INSA-UPS team for the Dry Lab parts of our projects. They assisted us with dynamic modelling using Flux Balance Analysis (FBA), and we helped them with SteadyCom and strain optimization of S. elongatus UTEX 2973. We exchanged updates in our wet lab progress and also organized the Cyanobacteria Symposium together, along with teams Stony Brook University and Hong Kong HKU. Read more about our partnership with Team Toulouse INSA-UPS here: Partnership.
The SZU-China iGEM team this year had designed an educational card game called 'IntestiNO', based on the popular card game UNO to raise awareness about the gut flora in an interactive manner. They reached out to us to translate the game into regional languages to make it accessible to a wider audience. We were very excited to be part of this project and members of our team translated the instructions and contents of the game into Marathi. Below are images of some of the cards from the game with content in Marathi.
The Future is SynBio
To make our outreach initiatives accessible to a wider audience, we collaborated with Team Stonybrook and Team Hong Kong HKU to host a webinar on synthetic biology and its applications. The webinar aimed to introduce school students to the basic concepts of synthetic biology and highlight researchers from underrepresented communities in science. You can read more about the event on our public engagement and education page here.