iGEM Lund 2021

iGEM Lund 2021

Education and Communication

This page is showing the effort for the Education and Communication gold medal criterion


Our team quickly realized that one of the significant challenges of our project was overcoming the many restrictions that hinder selling modified bacteria. Therefore, we decided to dedicate a substantial part of our project to educating the public and communicating our research.

To probe where we needed to focus our attention, we first surveyed everyday people about probiotics and GMOs. More informatin about the survey can be found on this link. We could detect a substantial knowledge gap on most topics.

Secondly, we wanted to get the industry's perspective. In a conversation with Zack Abbott, CEO of ZBiotics, he informed us about the importance of presenting science clearly so that people without a scientific background can understand. When pitching his product, he has had thousands of conversations with random people and understood which biology terminology to explain in greater detail. His striking example was that "protein" makes people think about "chicken" and not necessarily about the "building blocks" in our human body.

With all the information available after the outreach, we have an opportunity to tap into education and communication. In the end, we made a workshop guide, a partnership with Paris-Saclay, and a book translation with CCU Taiwan.

The Lund Workshop Guide

To target high-school students, we decided to design a workshop. The topic was probiotics, genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), and synthetic biology to create a clear link connected to iGEM and our project. Our team chose the workshop format because it invites the audience to engage with the material. Including exploration questions (as explained in the guide) truly helps deepen understanding and engage with the topic. Because of the ongoing pandemic, we could not meet with a group of students. Instead, we decided to transform our workshop into something of value to other iGEM teams.

Our guide aids in performing an efficient workshop. Rephrasing the project enabled us to expand the target group to iGEM teams, companies, or similar entities that want to share knowledge in a workshop. The Workshop Guide aimed to encourage other groups to design their workshops. The guide includes comprehensible step-by-step instructions before, during and after the workshop, as well as examples from our GMO and probiotics workshop.

Translation of a Children’s Picture Book

As a part of our collaboration with CCU Taiwan, we translated a children's picture book from English to Swedish. The original language of the book was traditional Chinese, according to CCU Taiwan. The aim is to create an environment for children, parents, and teachers of a fun learning experience.

The collaboration offered a new type of challenge for us natural scientists. While English and Swedish are both Germanic languages with many similarities, differences can make direct word-by-word translation impossible. Book translation is not simply translating word-by-word; it requires a certain finesse that fits the target language and keeps the integrity of the source material.

CCU Taiwan produced an entertaining children's book with accessible language, beautiful pictures, and an engrossing storyline. However, we quickly noticed that there were only male characters, except for the mother character. Publishing a children's book in 2021 without female characters isn't in line with the current Swedish zeitgeist where diversity is promoted. In the 1940's, Swedish author Astrid Lindgren put Sweden on the map with the strong female character Pippi Långstrump (eng. Pippi Longstocking) and with a Swedish audience that expects a diverse cast of characters it was decided that we would change the genders of a few characters. A few of the supporting characters turned into female characters simply by changing their names. This was quite easy since all the characters are depicted in a quite gender neutral fashion in the pictures. The heroic character turned into a character without a defined pronoun. The idea was to keep the gender open for interpretation.

We decided to go with the Taiwanese collaboration to bring the international and local aspects together. International as in sharing knowledge globally. The local part is just as important as the international counterpart. Team Lund consists of a range of students from different disciplines, one example being engineering nanoscience. The nano students study an up-and-coming scientific field that is constantly changing and evolving. In this niche type of engineering, there are barely any Swedish terms available since the working language is English.

It's important to have easily understandable material available so everyone can fully understand the material no matter their education level. With a printing shop on campus, there's a possibility to share the book in physical form and distribute it in digital format.

On a final note: the kids are our future, and we cannot afford not to educate the next generation. We hope that our book translation will be a fun and educational contribution to this vital aspiration!

Partnership with team Paris-Saclay

In addition to the workshop and the survey, we also conducted a partnership with the iGEM team Paris-Saclay that is very much related to our Education & Communication effort. Both of our teams wanted to go deeper into the ethical and political aspects of our projects. Team Lund had found that the partnership proved to be another way to do educational outreach, this time on an international scale.
The Lund and Paris-Saclay teams working toghether
Together with Paris-Saclay, we planned and produced:

  • One video each discussing ethics related to each of our projects in the style of a TED talk.
  • Debate articles on the SynthEthics platform.
  • A panel discussion, filmed in Amsterdam.

For the first video by Lund, the target audience is an international audience who might have heard of the terms “GMO” and “probiotics” and want to learn more informally. The article written by Lund had a more academic approach with a more informed target audience in mind, in line with SynthEthics’ wish. Lastly, the target audience for the panel discussion was people who had already watched the previous videos and wanted to get a more in-depth understanding.

For more information about our partnership, click here