Team:MIPT MSU/Education


Even at the beginning of the iGEM 2021, our team was thinking about the importance of knowledge accessibility. Our team strongly believes that the more people who know about synthetic biology, the better this field of science develops. Thus, we tried to present knowledge in all possible forms so that everyone could understand what we were talking about and get interested. We gave a lecture in the popular science library "Nauchka" for students of biological and medical institutions. We gave a number of popular science lectures at the festival Geek Picnic, Yuri’s Night for people not working in the field of biology. In addition to the lectures, we organized several masterclasses where everyone could touch molecular biology with his own hands. We also think that the most essential issue was to focus on the school audience because it is the very people who can become a biologist in the future (read more here ).

Learning through play is not only fun but also effective. That is why we choose a format of an interactive quiz to show teenagers what we love about synthetic biology and iGEM. The game was designed to be eventful and consisted of two different parts to keep the attraction of young pupils. Questions covered various topics with different levels of complexity, starting from the basics of biology to bioengineering. The rules of the quiz were developed based on the famous “Jeopardy!” TV-game.

The lessons were a huge success - we got many invitations from various schools to conduct them. We believe that our intentions were met - after the lessons, many of the participants talked to us about science, iGEM, and challenges while studying at leading Russian universities. They claimed they did not know how powerful synthetic biology actually was and that they were inspired to know more about it. After each lesson, all participants received commemorative prizes reminiscent of our team, iGEM, and synthetic biology.

Our team participated in one of the largest science open-air festivals in Europe – Geek Picnic. The purpose of the festival is to immerse as many people as possible in various areas of science and to show how interesting it is.

The festival program includes both lectures and interactive sessions. During lectures, speakers talk about modern trends in science and try to interest the audience in the subject of the story. Each lecture lasts for 20 minutes. Our team also held a lecture dedicated to synthetic biology. This was the first time we presented our project to such a large audience! Our goal was to make people curious about how our organism works and how synthetic biology can help in fighting against cancer. It was an incredible experience, as we managed to explain the basic principles of synthetic biology as well as the essence of our project in simple words to people who are not experts in the field.

Afterward, we spent the whole day demonstrating vivid and unforgettable experiments in chemistry, presenting facts from synthetic biology in a trivia format, and also teaching people the practical basics of molecular biology. We have prepared several contests with prizes for the winners. First of all, we conducted a quiz in which there was a wide variety of questions concerning molecular and general biology. Here we managed to tell people about something new, and also to engage them in the subject of our project. Furthermore, we taught people how to use laboratory tools such as pipettes. It turned out that a lot of people wanted to learn the basics of laboratory work, including children who have not yet decided on their future. Our team was happy to teach absolutely everyone. Afterward, we explained how to do a PCR reaction and electrophoresis. Moreover, we allowed them to do it all by themselves! We put a special emphasis on practice because it was most appealing to people. Finally, we showed the possibilities of synthetic biology using the example of luminous bacteria grown in advance in our laboratory. Our interactive session was the most popular in the whole Geek Picnic. Without exaggeration, almost every person has visited us and learned something new.

As a result of Geek Picnic, our team has introduced synthetic biology to a lot of people. Thanks to our quiz-like practice session and coordinated actions of our team, we managed to interest absolutely everyone in synthetic biology. We think that another very important result of this day was that many children became interested in biology and started dreaming of becoming scientists like us in the future. It was a great success and a great contribution to the popularization of synthetic biology.