Scientific Divulgation & Education
At 4C_Fuels we consider that the first step towards a sustainable society is to make society aware of what sustainability is and how it can be achieved. In this aim we believe that scientific divulgation and education is a fundamental aspect to encourage and inspire present and future generations. During the course of our project we have developed a whole set of scientific communication activities. From microorganism contests and science articles to podcasts and high-school lectures. All of them with the shared goal of making every part of our society more aware about the important role that science is and will continue having in our daily lives. In this page you will find a summary of all of our activities regarding science communication and education.
Divulgation Campaigns in Social Media
From the very beginning of our project, we developed a science education-based social media campaign with two main objectives:
First, was to raise interest and generate awareness about scientific topics, specially with those realated with sustainability and biotechnology. We planned the utilization of social networks to offer various contents with the same aim: communicating science in our region to create a local community, spread scientific knowledge and promote critical thinking. Because of this, most of the developed contents are in Spanish, in order to reach the widest possible audience.In addition, the contents has been thoughtfully created in different formats and complexisty levels, aiming to target different sectors of the population.
After consolidating a small community of active followers in Social Media, we took advantage of the situation to start sharing with them the main ideas behind 4C_Fuels project and iGEM competition. Our aim was getting people to know what iGEM competition is and raising inteest about it, setting the settlements for future iGEM teams in our region. Besides promoting iGEM concept we also used social media to obtain feedback from the general population about 4C_Fuels project and consider their opinion during our project development.
Due to the growing numbers of the community and contents we made, eventually we decided to centralize all of them into a Project's Landing Page (http://4cfuels.com). This page had a double purpose.
FIrst it served as a letter of introduction for those people interested to know more about the project. In this regard we specifically focused in the devleopment of a section specially dedicated to sponsors and stakeholders, where tey could acces the most relevant information about our project, download a more detailed Project's Introduction Dossier and contact with us to support the project under any kind of form.
Second, the landing page allowed us to gather all the divuglative contents into a single place, easing the access to our scientific communication materials. In addition we also used this divulgation section to upload small articles explaining the results of other divuglation and education activities, like the ones we performed at secondary schools.
Eventually the utilization of social networks has the additional purpose of engaging with the international iGEM community. This made possible to get in contact with many different iGEM teams and taking part into international collaborations, meetups and lectures events, either within current iGEM Teams and other organizations. Examples of this has been our participation in a Journal CLub event organized by the Peruvian Journal Club UPCH or the participation in the first iGEM Russian MeetUP, where iGEM LMSU 2021 team kindly invited us.
Our online divulgation strategy has mainly be developed trhough our Instagram and Twitter profiles, where depsite some contents where specifically desgined for one of the platforms, we eventually decided to adapt them and upload every content simultaneously to both social network profiles.
We also created a LinkedIN profile which was mainly used for contacting with advisors, sponsors and identifying relevant stakeholders for our project. However, due to the high workload of coping with three social networks simultaneously, we decided to focus our divulgation campaing via the instagram and twitter profiles, as well as our landing page.
The divulgative contents were grouped into different formats which can be mainly grouped into three categories: Interviews, Divulgation Articles and Social / Participative contents.
Regarding interviews, we developed a section called One Day With... where considering a scientifically relevant topic, we interviewed a person who has some kind of relation with it. The principal aim of this section was to make people realize how science and ordinariness are closer than what it may seem, demystifyng science, making it something attractive and promoting an active thinking about daily lives topics from a scientific perspective. To do so we have interviewed the widest possible range of people, from post-doctoral researchers, school teachers or high school students.
Examples of this are the interviews we have performed with Felipe Gándara, a researcher within nanomaterials for energy storage applications, Luis Monje a professional scientific photographer, Sara Cardenas a young student affected by cystic fibrosis or Sofía Galbán, a pre-doctoral researcher in polar airborne microorganisms. We also created an special chapter dedicated to discuss about the access to university, speaking with high school and first year university students, comparing their experiences, goals and challenges they see when entering the university.
Besides the interview format, we decided to create a section where the contents could be detailed in a greater extent. To this aim, we worked on the writting of divulgative articles and its adaptation to an interactive simplified version. In this section we looked for to awake the curiosity of people about different topics, always from its presentation as a question: Did you know that...?
Multiple example of the topics covered within our "Did you know that...?" section are the importance of genetic diversity and sustainable practice. We could see them in our article dedicated to Banana cultivation and how a fungal pandemic is affecting the worldwide banana supply chain. Other articles spoke about hot topics, like the one discussing about palm oil utiliation in industry from health to its environmental impact. Nevertheless, we have also writted articles about topics directly related with 4C_Fuels, like the one speaking why not every bio-based products are actually sustainable, focusing in the case of biofuels and encouraging people to always analyze information critically.
Interacting with the community
Eventually the third main pillar of our divulgation strategy consisted in more direct contents, developed to strength our contact with our community. Among this activities we have devleoped quizzes, interactive polls and even a Phototrophic organisms competition
This contest became really popular in our community. Every week two phototrophic organisms were presented, explaining their most relevant features and then our community had to vote which one they thought should be the winner of the round. This way we introducen people to the wonders of phototrophs, incresing their curiosity and interest for their potential utilization in other applications.
Nevertheless, polls and quizzes were not our only way to interact and expand 4C_Fuels community. We have also recorded a podcast, trying to offer a closer vision of who are 4C_Fuels members. In the 4C_Fuels podcast we shared our personal experience working in the project, as well as opening discussions about relevant scientific topics.
Eventually we have also collaborated within other activities in order to communicate science and spread the ideas behind 4C_Fuels project. As an example, we took part in DifuSyn Event,a synthetic biology divulgation seminar organized by the Peruvian Journal Club UPCH. We have also collaborated with Bioemprender, an spanish community focused in biotechnological and pharmaceutical entrepreneurship. The product of this collaboration ended in a Biotalent connect event, where we shared our experience to shape a proejct out of the idea, and explained what iGEM is and the opportunity it can be for developing entrepreneurship projects. In addition, we have also performed lectures and talks within our university. Among all of them the most remarkable one has been our participation in Aula 2021, the biggest superior education fair in our region: Madrid.
Activities in Schools: Sustainability & Synthetic Biology
As part of our Integrated Human Practices, we have organized a series of workshops for young people between 15 and 18 years old in order to teach basic synbio concepts through a gamification strategy. Our goals were generating awareness around sustainability concepts and promoting critical thinking.
The experience has been pivotal to our analysis of the awareness within the youngest part of the society. In addition we have presented the main ideas of the 4C_Fuels project, and analyzed the opinion of the students before and after our intervention, regarding synthetic biology knowledge and sustainability aspects.
We at 4C_Fuels believe that through Education, we can change the world for good. By transferring our knowledge on synthetic biology to younger generations, we are unlocking the chance for our listeners to have a better understanding of the possibilities that exist to shift towards a more sustainable economy and where they could have a lot to say.
We decided to target 15 to 18 year-old students from two different schools in Madrid to be eligible to attend this workshop. We have had the opportunity to visit La Salle Maravillas School and Juan de Valdés School and for that we thank them enormously for their receptiveness and interest in our project.
Synthetic Biology & Modular Cloning: Our Particular Superpower
To face the challenge of explaining Synthetic Biology to young people, we felt the need of accommodating complex concepts into a more understandable structure for all. This is why we created an interactive presentation with which students could decide which ‘Superpowers’ they would like to grant their character.
This is only an example of how the complexity surrounding synthetic biology can be broken down into simpler and even funnier methodologies to learn it. Obviously, the creation of a supernatural being had a direct relation with the synbio possibilities.
We introduced basic SynBio concepts like gene expression, regulation, parts, devices, chassis and modularity; as well as sustainability and circular economy principles. These concepts were shown through a gamification approach, which consisted in the introduction of the students within a fiction interactive tale.
During the development of this story, students have to decide about the application of different customization layers to one of the characters and through their combination, we could create a very different being with specific skills to overcome the challenges it founds.
In this way we showed the genotype-phenotype relationship and how SynBio serves as a modular tool to engineer organisms. However, we emphasized the importance of biosafety and bioethics.
We then translate the applications of modular genetic modifications to microorganisms, in particular cyanobacteria, as a way to introduce them to our project. Eventually the similarities between this “story” and what we do in the lab are presented, explaining in brief detail the key principles of 4C_Fuels aims and introducing crucial concepts such as sustainability, circular economy and biorefinery.
There was also time for the students to see with their own eyes how to play around with the concepts learned through our workshop. Thanks to a 3D-printed Modular Cloning model, we selected specific parts to transform complex biological assemblies into a game. In this game promoters, coding regions of genes and terminators used in the lab are represented and the students can get a more realistic glance of what we do when we manipulate DNA.
Understanding the impact of our activity
In order to test the influence of our workshop, we conducted two surveys during the event: one at the beginning, so we have an idea where we started from and another one at the end of the presentation. Both surveys included somewhat similar questions and in this way we could easily compare results from before and after our intervention. In the end we managed to survey 96 people in total and the results obtained were rather surprising for us.
What is thought synthetic biology is about?The first question asked was to mention three things they would think of when presented with the term ‘Synthetic Biology’. With the answers, we have created two separate Word Maps to better depict the words that were mentioned more than one time.
How much did students Knew? Did they learned after the workshop?
Simple synbio concepts (promoter, gene, terminator) were mentioned in our talk. ALl of them are well known by biologists and biotech researchers but we found out that between 20 to 40% of high school students have never heard of them before. This placed an opportunity for us to teach them and accomplish our mission with this workshop.
Synthetic Biology Concepts
As we can see in the initial results, there was room for improvement of our students, achieving a considerably higher rate of correct results in the final survey compared to the initial one.
Indeed, after the workshop our students improved their understanding of these concepts after the activity, achieving a considerably higher rate of correct results in the final survey compared to the initial one.
Opinion in Sustainability
To our surprise, when we asked students to about their opinion in topics regarding sustainability and the implications of biotechnology for sustainable development, we realized how aware is young population about sustainability.
Even there was a a slight improvement in the results. We realize how the general perception of about the need to increase funding for the development and deployment of sustainable technologies as well as the potential of biotechnology for sustainable development was already highly developed.
After our intervention, students have learned the basic concepts of synbio achieving an average of 80% correct answers in the final survey conducted.
The Modular Cloning Physichal Model
In our project we used SynBio tools based on the Marburg Collection of parts. We thought this collection was suitable for learning the basics of SynBio and Modular Cloning standards. Thus, we designed and 3D printed a physical model of some of the basic parts to teach high school students the potential of Modular Cloning.
The physical model included the following parts:
Terminal connectors for entry vectors construction
Single connectors for parts assembly
Type IIS restriction enzymes (BsaI, BsmBI)
Split BsaI for BsaI regeneration
Parts contain appropriate holes for 1x5 mm disc magnets. Vector backbones were built upon regular bracelet rope, but can be assembled with any similar material. In the case of activities in schools, although the complete model was designed, only a simplified set of parts were shown to high school students for teaching purposes. For further info about the model assembly you can contact us at email@example.com