Education and Communication

Michigan State

Synthetic Biology Club

This year, our iGEM team with the help of our college established the “Synthetic Biology Club”, or SynBio at MSU in hopes of involving more of our college students in the field of synthetic biology, MSU SynBio Club, aims to educate, communicate, and explore the field of synthetic biology amongst students and the community. Members will gain more knowledge on synthetic biology including the challenges of the field, possible career options, and STEM skills to build on their professional skills. The direct partnership with our iGEM team allows members to interact closely with those who work in the field. We hope that this organization on our campus will bring awareness to the field, and create an environment to become involved in the scientific community.

Synthetic Biology Campus Informational Session

An open presentation will introduce the concept of synthetic biology, the importance of biocontainment, and how they relate to each other, compensating for the lack of opportunity for learning about synthetic biology. We hope that this presentation will be informative and peak interest in the field of synthetic biology. To see the video presentation, please reach out to us.

iGEM Round Table Discussions

Social Media Educational Series


iGEM Survey of Biosafety
Background The importance of having a well-developed biocontainment system has been increasingly in demand due to the rise of synthetic biology. Since this project's main focus is creating a biocontainment system that could be implemented in labs, understanding where others are struggling to create their system would be beneficial for us to know so we may try to solve those problems in the system we create.
Design and Distribution Our survey questions were primarily targeted towards understanding the depth of knowledge iGEM teams have on biocontainment as well as what impacts their ability to create a biocontainment system for their project. We also wanted to identify any struggles that iGEM teams face when implementing a biocontainment system in their project. Finally, we requested some background information on their team to see if location, years of experience, team members, etc. had any impact on creating a biocontainment system for their project. A majority of our response options were in the form of drop-down responses or multiple choice. Those not in this form were short responses and usually reserved for an expansion explanation from a previous question in the form of multiple-choice or a drop-down option. We also received feedback on the questions from other iGEM teams, Costa Rica and Maastricht, which helped us improve our questions. Before distributing the finished survey, we received IRB approval. We distributed our survey via our team’s and the Costa Rica team’s social media pages.
Limitations Although these survey results helped understand iGEM teams’ struggles and concerns with biocontainment, it is also important to consider the limitations of this questionnaire. Distribution of this survey was voluntary to iGEM teams who saw the social media posts, which was not random.
Results Awatiting Results
Survey Format and Questionaire
  1. The survey begins with the following information on a separate page from the questions. At the end of the page, participants may click to continue on with the survey.
  2. The second page of the survey consists of five demographic questions in the following order:
    1. What is the name of your iGEM team? (short answer response)
    2. What country is your iGEM team from? (short answer response)
    3. How many years have you competed in or otherwise participated in iGEM (including this year) ? (options: 1, 2 ,3, 4, 5+)
    4. For approximately how many years has your institution had an iGEM team? (options: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5-8, 9-12, 12+)
    5. What track does your project fall under? (options: diagnostics, energy, environment, food & nutrition, foundational advance, hardware, high school, informational processing, manufacturing, new application, open, software, therapeutics)
  3. The third page of the survey consists of one question that asks for a description of that iGEM team’s project
  4. Briefly describe your project (optional) (short answer)
  5. The fourth page of the survey consists of two questions asking about if their project is intended to be used outside of a laboratory
    1. Is your project intended for use outside of a laboratory or industrial setting? (for example, in a sewage system, natural water feature, or human gut) (options: yes, no, maybe)
    2. Please elaborate on your response from question seven (short answer)
  6. The fifth page of the survey consists of six questions in relation to if the iGEM team has any plans to implement a biocontainment system for their project
  7. Is your team developing or considering a biocontainment system for your project? (options: yes, no)
    If "yes" response to question nine, how developed is your biocontainment concept currently? (0 being "no" response to question nine, 1 being not at all well developed, 3 being comprehensive plan, and 5 being In the process of being developed experimentally) (options: slider question, options shown below)
    1. “No” response to question
    2. Not at all well developed
    3. (no option here)
    4. Comprehensive plan
    5. (no option here)
    6. In the process of being developed experimentally
  8. The sixth page of the survey asks two questions
    1. What resources would your team need to develop a robust biocontainment mechanism for your project?
    2. Please briefly elaborate on your responses on question fifteen. (short answer)
      • (select all that apply) options:
      • Funding
      • Personnel
      • Information
      • Readily available parts and/or plasmids
      • Access to expert opinion
      • Mentorship/guidance
      • Other (please describe)
  9. The seventh page of the survey asks one short answer question
  10. Please briefly describe any current or past challenges you/your team has faced when designing or implementing a biocontainment strategy, if applicable (short answer
  11. The eight page of the survey asks three questions that are a combination of multiple choice and short answer
    1. Have you been exposed to the concept of biocontainment? (options: yes, no)
    2. Where were you first exposed to the concept of biocontainment? (options: school lecture, lab work, iGEM, independent research, other (please describe) ).
    3. Q21. If you selected "other" on question eighteen, please elaborate here: (short answer
  12. The ninth page of the survey asks two questions
    1. What resources have you used to learn about and/or design biocontainment systems? (interview experts, academic articles, iGEM etc) (options: experts, academic articles, official iGEM resources, mentors, educational materials (such as videos or textbooks), prior knowledge, other (please describe), none)
    2. If you selected "other" on question twenty, please elaborate here: (short answer)
  13. The tenth page of the survey asks two questions:
    1. Which of the following biocontainment methods are you familiar with? Select all that apply. (options: engineered auxotrophy, Genome recoding/Xeno-DNA, Toxin-antitoxin systems, cell-free systems, “kill switches”, other (please describe))
    2. If you selected "other" on question twenty-four, please elaborate here: (short answer)
  14. The eleventh page of the survey only asks one question that is multiple choice
    • Is a biocontainment system your main project or a side project to enhance
  15. The twelfth and final page of the survey shows these comments
  16. We thank you for your time spent taking this survey.
    Your response has been recorded.