Note: After consulting iGEM Headquarters, Team Korea_HS is submitting the work for both gold medal criterion #6 (Education & Communication) and the best education award. By that same token, the same information is included for both pages.
Public Engagement Survey
We created and distributed an online Google Form survey in both Korean and English to people in five different continents. We decided to use a Google Form survey due to numerous reasons. Google Form is easily accessible to anyone through a link, efficient as it does not require much time, and sustainable as it does not require any physical materials like paper! The questionnaire allowed us to analyze the public’s familiarity with synthetic biology and it was sent to people of different age groups, countries, and levels of education.
The rough draft of the survey was created in June but it was finalized and distributed in early September. Many amendments had been made during the process, producing a straightforward, clear, and concise final version. This was important as it reached people of all different age groups and levels of education. Due to our members’ distribution to their respective schools, families, friends, and teachers, we were able to collect a total of 282 responses, providing our team with a wide scope of analysis.
The survey consisted of eight questions related to synthetic biology and cell-penetrating peptides. The questions were:
- ◉ How old are you?
- ◉ What region defines your residence?
- ◉ How familiar are you with Synthetic Biology?
- ◉ How familiar are you with cell-penetrating peptides?
- ◉ How familiar are you with therapeutic cell-penetrating peptides?
- ◉ How familiar are you with cancer and/or cancer therapeutics?
- ◉ How do you believe therapeutic cell-penetrating peptides will perform compared to the traditional treatments when used in medical treatment?
- ◉ How comfortable would you be with using therapeutic cell-penetrating peptides in medicinal uses in the future?
(Figure 1-1: Public engagement analysis of Synthetic Biology familiarity.)
The surveyed individuals were mostly unfamiliar with synthetic biology. Only 12 out of 282 responded that they were very familiar. In contrast, 76 people said they were completely unfamiliar with synthetic biology. This showed that the public was unaware of the sciences behind their daily routines, despite the ubiquitous use of synthetic biology in medications, agriculture, and everyday products.
(Figure 1-2: Public engagement analysis of cell-penetrating peptide familiarity.)
Similar to the responses on familiarity of Synthetic Biology, the majority of respondents stated that they were completely unfamiliar with cell-penetrating peptides(CPPs). On the other hand, only 2.9% of people said they were very familiar. An explanation for this trend may be the relatively recent introduction of CPPs, as well as the lack of products exposed to the general public that involve CPPs.
(Figure 1-3: Public engagement analysis of cancer therapeutics implementation.)
Most respondents were not very supportive of the use of therapeutic CPPs in the future. We believe this is a quite reasonable response as the use of CPPs in general treatments has not been established as safe, nor has there been adequate research regarding the use of CPPs in the human body. Only 20.5% of those surveyed seemed affirmative of the use of CPPs in medicine in the future.
(Figure 2: Live sticker poll, Dongseongro, Daegu.)
As online surveys via Google Forms were vulnerable to sampling bias due to means of dissemination, we decided to perform an additional survey. Hence, a live sticker poll was conducted on October 3rd at Dongseongro, Daegu, a commercial and cultural center of Daegu with the highest foot traffic. Here, a board promoting iGEM and four questions (modified respectively from public engagement survey to suit the nature of live surveys) was displayed and members of Korea_HS actively requested 40+ people of Dongseongro (over the duration of 2 hours) to participate in the survey.
- Have you heard of Synthetic Biology?
- Have you heard of cell-penetrating peptides?
- Are you familiar with any cancer therapeutics?
- If applied for medicinal purposes, would you use CPP?
The results were comparable to those of public engagement surveys. Although most were informed of some form of conventional cancer therapeutics (Yes: 75%, No: 25%), most citizens were unfamiliar with both Synthetic Biology (Yes: 25%; No: 75%) and cell-penetrating peptides (Yes: 12.5%; No: 87.5%). Nevertheless, there existed considerable social discrepancies in themselves using CPP when applied for medicinal purposes (Yes: 62.5%, No: 37.5%). For that reason, the analytics pose that unfamiliarity to Synthetic Biology and CPP - with heavy reliance on conventional cancer therapeutics - yield inherent hostility to Synthetic Biology-underlying cancer therapeutics.
After consulting a variety of social cohorts while completing the survey, it was reported that the population group most vulnerable to informational bias (to Synthetic Biology) was adolescents. As literature conventionally presents, we perceived the urgent necessity to improve social conception of Synthetic Biology through direct, proactive interference with the current educational system through devising heterogeneous means of educational activities not limited to age, method, and approach.
Public Engagement Pamphlet
(Figure 3-1: General design of the public engagement pamphlet.)
In order to increase the public's knowledge of our iGEM project and synthetic biology, our team created and distributed educational pamphlets. These pamphlets were distributed both physically and online in order to maximize access to the information and analyses of our project. The pamphlet included an introduction of our team, purpose of our project, information on CPPs, and a general outline of our experiment. Since the target audience was our fellow iGEMers, high school students, teachers, and parents, we made sure to organize information that would be approachable to those who have never encountered synthetic biology. This distribution of pamphlets aroused curiosity and interest in this field of study in our schools, families, and community.
(Figure 3-2: School level-distribution of pamphlets, Daegu International School.)
Members of Human Practices distributed 100+ public engagement pamphlets to their 6+ respective schools which included Chadwick International School (Incheon, South Korea), Daegu International School (Daegu, South Korea), Dulwich College Seoul (Seoul, South Korea), Shanghai American School Puxi (Shanghai, China), Tabor Academy (Massachusetts, the United States), and Stony Brook School (New York, the United States). Students, along with receiving pamphlets, were able to educate themselves through rigorous, evidence-based 1:1 interaction with the respective team members by discussing the following areas: (1) Synthetic Biology and its implications, (2) cell-penetrating peptides and their applications, and (3) what defines our project’s mechanism. Some students raised general questions about iGEM and members’ involvement with it, which members of Korea_HS actively responded to.
(Figure 3-3: SNS/Event-level distribution of pamphlets, team Instagram.)
A public engagement pamphlet was actively distributed online via team Instagram and a joint Youtube channel with Team ASIJ_Tokyo. This fostered a rapid and effective dissemination of pamphlets backed with sound communication and feedback systems between iGEMers and the general public - allowing them to discuss Synthetic Biology and the association of our project with ease of sharing and commenting. Also, the pamphlet was also distributed online during key events of Education & Communication, such as the 2021 Autumn Dry Lab Bootcamp (through debriefing email), Northeast Asia Joint Collaboration Network (through general announcements), and 2021 1st Global iGEM Diagnostics and Therapeutics Conference (through debriefing email), successfully targeting all those working on Synthetic Biology (students, instructors, etc).
Korea Scholar’s Conference for Youth
Through the public engagement online survey and the live sticker poll, it was perceived that adolescents were particularly vulnerable to developing informational bias (holding against Synthetic Biology for most cases). Hence, a medium of liaising with high school student-researchers - high school students with active involvement in research of Synthetic Biology or life science - for the proliferation of leader-led promotion was critically necessitated. Korea Scholar’s Conference for Youth (KSCY) is a scholastic conference exclusively for high school student-researchers of any area, hosted semi-annually by Yonsei University. All participating teams are required to submit either a full project proposal or presentation with a presentation video and attend the KSCY session (“Paradigm Shift”). Herein, our team submitted a research proposal and was qualified to attend the KSCY session along with Social Value (quality of life) accreditation from the Center for Social Value Enhancement Studies (CSES). KSCY allowed only those with wet lab results to submit a presentation and as our results were incomplete by the stated deadline, we were only qualified to submit a proposal.
During “Paradigm Shift” (comparable to virtual Giant Jamboree), different cohorts of Synthetic Biology literature - collegiate students from Yonsei University, high school student-researchers, and experts visited our team’s website showcasing proposals and videos presenting association of Synthetic Biology with cell-penetrating peptides and our project. This started conversations revolving around heterogeneous topics ranging from utilization of CPP to evaluation methods (e.g. RT-PCR, MTT cytotoxicity assay). This study was submitted to the KSCY & Yonsei University’s project database for future reference by teams building proposals for the 17th KSCY. Such distributional methodology proved its efficiency as cross-sectional research by multiple institutions allows rapid dissemination of information (of interest) to a wider scholastic milieu.
BHA-Jeju Synthetic Biology Workshop
On September 30th, team Korea_HS hosted the Synthetic Biology Workshop in Branksomehall Asia, Korea. The event was hosted for 3 hours and an education session and an experiment session were provided by members of Korea_HS.
During the education session, Korea_HS introduced synthetic biology by providing scientific information and development of “Bleeding” vegan meat by ‘Impossible Foods’ as an example. Moreover, the topic of cell-penetrating peptides and their economic and social impacts, FITC assay, and protein modeling (mathematical and homology modeling) were presented. Then, we spent time introducing our iGEM 2021 topic on the development of cancer-specific cell-penetrating peptides. For the experiment session, participants got the opportunity to take strawberry DNA extraction experiments and agarose gel electrophoresis.
Overall, the workshop was successful at educating the students at Branksomehall Asia. After the workshop, there was lots of positive feedback from participants who displayed interest in synthetic biology as well as in iGEM. This was a wonderful opportunity where we learned about taking responsibility through putting ourselves in the expert’s shoes.
SAS-Puxi Synthetic Biology Session
From September 9th to 30th, team Korea_HS hosted four biology sessions at Shanghai American School for elementary school kids. With our passion about genes and cell structures, we wanted to expand beyond our research and spread the excitement to a younger crowd.
Interconnected with a club called Contagious Intelligence, we provided four sessions to elementary school kids with a chance to learn more about the selective permeability of cells and how our genes work. During the workshop, we provided two experiments: plasma membrane regarding the hydrophobic and hydrophilic parts and effect of water on the cell structures. The last two sessions were about our iGEM projects. In one of the sessions, we talked about the process we took to reach the goal we were aiming for. While it was difficult to break down our research into easily understandable parts, the experience of teaching the students how to solve a real-world problem using concepts learned at school was rewarding. In the last session, we talked about the limitations and strengths of our research project including possible real-world implications.
We tried to incorporate a conceptual understanding of cells with tangible, hands-on experiments that allowed students to explore their interest in biology through engaged learning. The workshop was surely a unique and unforgettable experience.
Lab Kit Webinar
On October 4th at 6 pm and 8 pm KST, Team Korea_HS hosted two virtual lab webinars: an elementary Fruit DNA extraction lab and a middle school Petri Culture lab respectively. Each of the events was hosted through zoom with about ten participants per webinar and a duration of approximately one hour each. The contents of the webinars included a brief introduction to synthetic biology and iGEM, safety guidelines, and a step-by-step guided experiment session performed simultaneously by the webinar hosts (2 Korea_HS members) and the participants.
Prior to the webinars, team Korea_HS members congregated (adhering to Covid-19 guidelines for metropolitan areas) to make a total of 40 lab kits. The lab kits, each of which our members measured out, packaged, and assembled in cardboard boxes were scheduled to be distributed to the participants’ homes containing all the necessary materials for the experiments. The kits also included a paper with a list of all materials needed for the experiment. Thus, if they were missing anything, participants would be able to contact us for it.
Both webinars were overall a wonderful experience for the team and the children. Most of all, we were grateful for the opportunity to share the miracles of biology amidst the pandemic.
2021 Autumn Dry Lab Webinar
On September 25th at 8:00 PM Tokyo Time, Team Korea_HS and ASIJ_Tokyo co-hosted the 2021 Autumn Dry Lab Webinar. The event was open to all high school non-iGEMers interested in iGEM or dry lab. There were over 40+ participants representing various educational institutions of the Republic of Korea, Japan, and the United States. Following introductory speeches discussing the mission of iGEM and integration of dry lab with wet lab, guest speakers from Korea_HS and ASIJ_Tokyo - including special guest Misaki Inoue, 2019’s ASIJ_Tokyo alumnus and sophomore at Imperial College London - provided a walkthrough of mainstream dry lab programs (e.g. Pymol, Rosetta, PEP-FOLD3, Benchling, and CellDesigner).
All walkthroughs integrated wet and dry labs through mini questionnaires, case studies, and visualizations. Participants were allotted breakout sessions featuring programs of their interest, where program-individualized activities (e.g. visualizing peptides themselves via PEP-FOLD3) were executed to establish and strengthen the students’ problem-oriented, wet-lab integrated learning.
Many students praised the unique opportunities the webinar provided. We also received suggestions for improvement to our explanations of program-oriented simulations which both Team Korea_HS and ASIJ_Tokyo will address by program-focused, time-efficient modulation of the webinar(s) in the future. This event successfully connected adolescents to completely innovative means of experimentation (i.e. dry lab software).
“Give Blood ~ Save a Life”
A donation event called “Give Blood~Save a Life” was co-hosted by Team Korea_HS and Greece_United (NOUS). The event took place in the week of October 4th to October 10th in the Republic of Korea (Dongseongro, Daegu) and Greece (Alexandroupoli) simultaneously. This event’s mission was to spread the word on the importance of blood donation and supporting blood donation centers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. To accomplish such objectives, our team partnered with Dongseongro Blood Donation Center during the awareness week.
A live sticker poll, along with the distribution of 100+ pamphlets (presenting general statistics encouraging the public to spare their attention to blood donation), and questioning foot traffic’s knowledge of blood donation were performed at Dongseongro, Daegu. Additionally, a march along Dongseongro Fashion Street, wearing customized vests and pickets displaying the theme “Give Blood~Save a Life” was conducted along with open conversations with the public. Third, our team supported the staff of blood donation centers by guiding interested donors to full blood donation. We ensured that the donors were informed with material on donating blood and primary care.
This global event fostered a communal milieu favorable to blood donation by visualizing blood donation as a non-invasive and beneficial act. Via the friendly set-up of a sticker poll, interest forms, pamphlets, and direct guidance/education of Korea_HS members, daily blood donation increased by 10-20% during the awareness week. It also made an impact on 100+ citizens on their knowledge of blood donation and its implication to society amid COVID-19.
Team Korea_HS and ASIJ_Tokyo co-created a Youtube channel as a part of their partnership agenda. In total, two videos were uploaded aiming to spread awareness of cancer (breast cancer in particular).
The first video compiled all the interviews Team Korea_HS and ASIJ_Tokyo conducted with varying age cohorts (e.g. middle schooler, high schooler, college student) from South Korea and Japan to display the contrasting awareness of cancer of both countries. All interviews were voluntary, and interviewees were given several guiding topics (e.g. treatment, diagnosis, definition) to formulate their own statements on the broad spectrum of cancer.
The second video merged animations created by Team Korea_HS and ASIJ_Tokyo. This video was targeted to elementary school students where creative, dynamic, and engaging animations were utilized to actively promote the awareness of cancer’s defining hallmarks such as current diagnosis (e.g. mammography) and treatment (e.g. chemotherapy) with connection to implications of Synthetic Biology as an emerging panacea.
Overall, this Youtube channel served as a meaningful promotional platform (with ease of access) allowing the public to cognize the awareness of cancer (which was comparable within each cohort, increasing as the educational level increased) and start educating themselves through explicit and engaging images.
SAS-Puxi Synthetic Biology Journalism
Team Korea_HS collaborated with International Youth Scientists, a global online STEM publication for high school and college students. International Youth Scientists consists of writers and editors across the world with members in China, Singapore, the US, India, Australia, Egypt, and the UK. As its mission is to provide interesting and quality science articles to the public, we are planning on submitting our journals to publish our research to a broader audience. Furthermore, as International Youth Scientists includes a variety of people from different cultural backgrounds, we sought to hear some advice and comments regarding the work we’ve performed and possibly get assistance from other students with an interest in cancer cells.
Team Korea_HS has finished writing the research paper and is ready to submit it once submission opens. The research paper presented a proposal to design a cancer-specific cell-penetrating peptide for the efficient delivery of siRNA into cancer cells. As the goal of International Youth Scientists is to make science more accessible and easier to understand, we hope through publishing our research paper we will inspire others and spark their interest in solving real-life problems.
“How To iGEM Booklet”
“How To iGEM” is a 50-page-long booklet co-authored by Team Greece_United and Korea_HS. This is an informative guide for non-iGEMers, thoroughly scrutinizing the process it takes to build an iGEM team and compete it iGEM. Team Greece_United published the collegiate section of the booklet, informing audiences about the iGEM competition (tracks, awards, judging, requirements, etc), team recruitment and composition, project topic brainstorming and finalization, timeline, external support, and fundraising. Team Korea_HS, with significant support from Matthew Kaung (leader of 2021 ASIJ_Tokyo), published a high school section. We provided audiences two mainstream methods of high school iGEM startups, comparison of sections, topic selection and finalization, collaboration & human practices, and fundraising & event organization. Most importantly, we strived to correct biases and concerns high school students may hold prior to joining iGEM – such as university application, school-iGEM balance, prior knowledge of biology, etc. – by providing students thorough guidelines to pragmatically overcoming such difficulties (e.g. tips to efficiency, team dynamics).