- Our Education and Communication section’s main goal was twofold:
- The first goal was to raise awareness for our findings
- The second goal was to inform and inspire multiple different audiences about biology as a field in general.
- We had three target audiences:
- Primary school students (Age 4-8)
- Teenagers (Age 12-18)
- Adults/Professional (Age 18+).
- A variety of methods were used to communicate our purpose to the respective audience including
Children Innovation/Inspiration Sessions
- One of our primary goals for this project was to not only be able to inform the general population of our findings (in the hopes that it could raise awareness) but also generate interest in fields related to biology (plastic/synthetic biology in particular).
- One particular population subgroup that we sought to “inspire” was kids from the ages 4-8. One way we carried this out was through a series of simple, interactive workshops where kids could have a glimpse at what biology is and participate in activities that could cultivate their interest in not only biology, but also more specifically plastic, essential biology, and bacteria.
- Due to the fact that these were extremely young children, the standard method of presenting information and hoping that the audience not only understood, but also remembered and was interested in it wouldn’t work. We had to create an environment that would keep the children interested, while still delivering information. The model we used was adapted accordingly to the workshop, but it often followed the same rough framework.
- After checking that everyone arrived, we briefly introduced our project. Often times we played them the promotion video for our project. This was designed to provide very basic introductory information and be friendly to the average person, along with entertaining them as it included many animations to help viewers visualize our project. As such, it was a great way for the small kids to learn something about who we were and our project.
- Figure 1: Shanghai American School Puxi Workshop- Group of kids attentively watching our promotion video
- After watching the video, we moved on to an interactive presentation model. We presented simple information such as what a protein is and different types of plastics. Taking this topic as an example, we encouraged open discussion by encouraging the kids to ask questions and discuss any other information they knew about proteins/plastics. At the end, we asked all of the kids to list one real life example of an object which contained protein, and gave out a page of iGEM stickers to every kid as a reward for answering the question!
- Figure 2: SASPX Workshop-Albert M., Jonathan J. (Left), Rebecca and Elizabeth (Right) leading the presentation about protein to an excited audience of kids
- Figure 3: Hannah Tian(Left), Jennifer Zhang(Middle), Julie Zhu(Right) giving lecture to the students
- Finally, we organized some sort of hands-on interactive task. For example, in the SASPuxi workshop, we asked the kids to divide themselves into groups of 2 or 3 in order to work together to decorate their own robots. They used an assortment of colored popsicle sticks, tape, paper and markers, etc. to customize their robots. After 15 minutes, we led the kids back to the main floor, where they participated in a competition against another team by using their remote control car to try to move a set of blocks. The car is like our magic yeast, the set of green blocks are like our reporter yeGFP, and the decorations the kids made on their robot to help increase the efficiency of transportation is like the anchor protein we developed to help express the enzymes. Kids could understand the procedure better by doing this.
- Figure 4: Kids are designing their robots.
- Figure 5: Kids are battling in groups
- All in all, the theme of teamwork and hands-on participation ran throughout all of our workshops. Our goal was to potentially present biology as a possible subject of interest, and help cultivate any already existing passions for biology. We hosted numerous workshops such as SASPX and BIO+TECH. We believe that these had a positive impact, as the parents all gave positive review of these workshops, and the kids were thrilled to participate in them! It should be noted that although only two workshops are presented above, we organized many more, although we could not collect unanimous consent for photos so they are not pictured here.
- Over the course of several months between July and October (and still ongoing), we contacted numerous respected and established professionals in biology-related fields in order to host “Speaker Sessions” where these professionals could address a wide range of biology related topics for the benefit of the public. These topics ranged from choosing biology as a career to specific, exciting fields of biology and current research, all the while involving speakers ranging from current professors to professionals in a wide variety of fields. We believe that this is important as these are experts in their respective fields and expert advice is always something many people could find helpful (i.e. students considering a prospective career in biology).
- Two full interviews with speaker information are listed below, with several more planned. It should be noted that unfortunately, several interviews were not able to be conducted before November/Wikifreeze due to the busy school schedule, yet are still certainly applicable.
Professor Sheldon Li
- Credentials: Dr. Li obtained his neurobiology Ph.D. at John Hopkins University in Professor Solomon Snyder’s laboratory. He was the former Vice President of R&D at International Flavors and Fragrances, currently founder and CEO of Ixora Scientific and has more than 100 US patents. On top of that, Dr. Li has published more than a dozen academic papers and has been invited to give lectures at many academic conferences such as Gordon Research Conference, KeyStone, and the American Chemical Society National Meeting.
- Professor Li
- Professor Sheldon Li has tremendous experience and expertise regarding biology, and as such we were extremely honored to have him come speak to us. We asked him about his advice to any potential future biologists, along with possible career paths and their benefits and downsides. All in all, his advice and experience proved to be very insightful, and we hope it will benefit our audience significantly.
- Professor Li’s Presentation: Jonathon Ji (Middle Left), Advisor Mrs. Ying Zhang and PI Mrs. Jing Zhou (Middle Right), Professor Sheldon Li (Right)
- Credentials: Frank Cong is a Shanghai-based media artist. His art practice and research focus on the artistic exploration of digital media and bio-media with an emphasis on transdisciplinary understanding of art and biotechnology. He has exhibited, curated and spoken in various art, design and technology events including the Première Vision Exhibition (2016), Consciousness Reframed Conference (2017), Out of Control Exhibition at Songjiang Art Museum, Shanghai (2018), Ars Electronica (2019) and Shanghai Science Festival (2020)
- Frank Cong
- An accomplished bio-artist, Mr. Cong and his insights into not only bio-art, but the general field of bio as a whole were extremely enlightening. As such, we are extremely honored to have Mr. Cong come speak with us. We discussed what bio-art is, Mr. Cong’s successful career as a bio-artist, and what advice Mr. Cong would give to students interested in multiple bio-related fields. We hope that this interview will be of great help to any prospective bio-artists/biologists.
Full Interview Listed Below:
- Can you give us a brief introduction to yourself?
- I am a media artist and work in education, my main field is interactive media art and biological art.
- What applicability does bio-art have in our current age?
- The definition of biological art is still vague, but most of the artworks related to life, science and biotechnology that have appeared since the end of the last century can be classified into this category. Biological art works can be used as a lens to look into the future of biotechnology, helping us to conduct ethical discussions on current or future biotechnology in the public domain, and allowing us to rethink the definition of life and intelligence. Of course, the biological artist's exploration of life matter in the creative process also creates biological materials with practical value.
- How did you decide on doing choosing bioart/biology as a career?
- My interest in biological art originated from the emotional resonance of "active media". Many biological art works directly use fresh and live animals and plants, microorganisms, tissue cells, etc. When I admire such works of art, I often have a strong sense of connection with the work, because in front of me is a living being like me. Only when life and life face each other can there be such a subtle aesthetic distance.
- How does bioart differ from standard art (like painting etc.)?
- Most intuitively, traditional art represented by "oil plate carving wall", ink painting, and paper-cutting often has customary creation media. The media used in biological art is not restricted, but it often involves living substances or life processes; The themes of biological art mainly revolve around the definition of life, biotechnology ethics, and ecological relations; traditional art has experienced discussions about the relationship between humans and gods, and between humans. Many biological art focuses on the relationship between humans and non-human species. When discussing the relationship between man and nature, traditional art and biological art have reached the same goal by different routes.
- Seeing as bioart is somewhat of a synthesis between art and biology, do you have any advice to other students who may want to combine several interests?
- If you have the opportunity, you can seek interdisciplinary cooperation in the learning process. Biological art can help us better understand the relationship between art and technology. When we talk about the integration of art and technology, there are two obvious paradigms, one is illustrations in popular science works, and the other is new media art that uses the latest technological achievements, such as virtual reality. In the former, we have seen how art helps the public to better understand scientific and technological knowledge, while in the latter, technology fully assists artistic creation and provides it with a new medium. The current large amount of cross-disciplinary cooperation in art and technology has provided us with a good cross-disciplinary collaboration model. What biological art presents to us is a new interdisciplinary cooperation paradigm- transdisciplinary, that is, artists and scientists no longer perform their duties and focus on their own professional parts, but can play the role of each other in cooperation and learn from each other’s way of thinking.
- Starting in August, we began participating in a series of public speaking events, all of which were free to attend by anybody. These were conducted for several purposes, including but not limited to spreading our knowledge and findings, while simultaneously collaborating with other teams to refine our findings. Our hope is that not only could our team take away something from these conferences, but so could the audience. Three events are highlighted below:
- Target Audience: Older teenagers and adults/professionals.
- On September 19th, we participated in Plasticase, a conference between iGEM teams conducting research related to plastic. The purpose of this conference was firstly for us to raise awareness for our project by presenting our findings/research. Secondly however, this conference was also intended for us to be able to take away and learn from the other team’s projects. All together, it was a very interesting cooperative experience which facilitated collaboration amongst all the teams.
- Plasticase Confederation Sign
- A full recording of this conference is available here:
- Link: https://meeting.tencent.com/v2/cloud-record/share?id=e6df0b31-8057-48d6-8b56-05c206aaeae5&from=3
- Password: 0919
- On August 27th, several of our members went to Fudan University to participate in CCiC8, a conference/competition organized to provide a platform for presenting, exchanging and discussing research and ideas between many different biology groups. At this event, not only did four of our members present our project and findings, they also found opportunities for collaboration with another team conducting related research. We also received feedback and advice from several knowledgeable professors.
- Offline collaboration(left)-From left to right: Hannah T., Marcus L., Jonathan J.
- Onsite Presentation(right)-From left to right: Hannah T., Jonathan J., Marcus L., Albert M.
- IvyMaker-China also participated in Gene Hacker, an online presentation event designed to educate a large audience about several potential breakthroughs regarding synthetic biology. Several iGEM teams participated in this event. Similar to the other events, the purpose of this event was to share our project with a large audience and discover opportunities to collaborate with other teams. This event was also extremely interactive as following every presentation, the audience was given time to ask the respective team any questions they may.
- Presentation of our project