Education & Communication

(Gold Medal#6)


   We firmly believe that communication with society is the fundamental pillar of scientific communication and to build a bridge between science and society. Despite the efforts and sacrifices have made by scientists and researchers in the name of science, we realize that there are still many misunderstandings and knowledge gaps in the public. We consider it our responsibility to engage with society and show them firsthand information, either through the introduction of synthetic biology or our project.
   As iGEM undergraduates, we understand that synthetic biology can ignite souls of young people. To inspire the younger generation, we have held a variety of activities, from children to adults, and used the characteristics of the normal university to actively carry out online and offline popular science activities.

Part 1. Talking with educational expert

   To better carry out popular science activities of all ages, the NNU-China 2021 team gave full play to the outstanding educational resources of the school to communicate with educators and ask about the questions that we should pay attention to when facing different ages. The team invited Professor Wei Shanchun from the School of Education Science of Nanjing Normal University.

Expert introduction:

Fig. 1. Professor Shanchun
   Prof. Shanchun Wei is a professor of the School of Education Science of Nanjing Normal University, doctoral supervisor, director of the Department of Primary Education. She is also a director of the National Teaching Theory Professional Committee. She mainly studies the basic theory of education, curriculum and teaching theory, and teacher education, and is primarily engaged in the study of the course and instruction, teaching evaluation, teacher and student relationship from the perspective of process philosophy.
Fig. 2. Communicating with educational expert
   Professor Wei pointed out that the project design should be carried out according to the object's different knowledge reserve and acceptance ability. For example, in front of people who have not learned biological content, we can vividly display our content in the form of pictures. In front of students in junior and high school, we can combine the textbook related knowledge. In front of college students, we can explain in the form of science lectures.
   The suggestions of educators are constructive for the team to carry out popular science activities in the next step. On this basis, our team designs the corresponding popular science forms for publicity.

Part 2. Little Cell Engineer

   After communicating with Professor Wei Shanchun, we listened to the advice of experts to introduce synthetic biology to children through picture books. We worked with eight teams: LZU-China, NNU-China, UM_Macau, NJ, NMU-China, NWU-China, FZU-China, and NUDT-China to promote synthetic biology and produce cell factory picture books. On September 25th, we carried out the activity of "Little Cell Engineer". We distributed picture books to many children's training bases in Nanjing, Lanzhou, and other places to improve their interest in science and their understanding of cell factories. We carefully and vividly explained the picture books' relevant contents and popularized the science of microbial knowledge. The children liked the story in the cell factory, took an active part in activities, and drew the appearance of their cell guards on the blackboard.
Fig. 3. Description of the picture book content to children

Fig. 4. Picture books
   This activity gave children an interest in science and enhanced their awareness of bacteria, antibiotics, antimicrobial peptides, etc. The smooth development of widespread science popularization and publicity in childhood has made us more confident in our project. At the same time, we are very grateful for working with the other eight teams.

Part 3. Education and publicity for middle school students from mountainous area

   We plan to carry out popular science courses on synthetic biology for middle school students. Through sorting out the regions involved in the previous participating teams, we found that the knowledge of synthetic biology is less acceptant in inland areas, and there are differences between regional development.
Fig. 5. iGEM distribution map of popular areas in China
   Since iGEM was established, more and more university teams have participated in the competition. At the same time, synthetic biology is gradually coming into public view. On August 16th, we held a scientific activity of Synthetic biology in the mountain area of the Guizhou province, "Decoding Life reveals Synthetic Biology", jointly owned by Nanjing universities and volunteers. The course includes four parts: laboratory journey, introduction of synthetic biology, introduction of team projects,and question exchange .
Fig. 6. Content of popular science activities
   There is a famous saying that education is not indoctrination, but lighting a fire. For us, this event may be one of many. Still, it was a special day for the students. We hope that we can successfully ignite their interest in biology, especially synthetic biology, open a new path for them and reveal more possibilities for their future. We also hope to drive more and more people to volunteer teaching activities. It is an inspiring thing.

Part 4. "Taking Synthetic Biology Into High School" —— High School Popular Science

   From July 26 to August 20, we conducted popular science courses of synthetic biology for high school students to improve high school student's understanding of synthetic biology. With the 2021 IGEM Competition as the media, we contacted Suzhou Experimental Jiangsu Middle School. The course is divided into four sessions. the topics are the introduction of synthetic biology, the research and development of CRISPR, research progress of artemisinin synthesis, and the research content of NNU in the IGEM competition.
Fig. 7. Course progress
   The feedback from many students showed a great interest in synthetic biology. In the course, students asked questions about the differences between synthetic biology between high school biology and how to learn more about synthetic biology in high school. The team members enthusiastically answered their questions. We believe that these high schools will be more interested in IGEM and more likely to engage in synthetic biology in the future.

Fig. 8. Course feedback

Part 5. The reform of Undergraduate curriculum

   Based on the idea of undergraduate synthetic biology curriculum reform. On the evening of July 31st, our team visited Prof. Huang He, dean of the School of Food and Pharmaceutical Engineering of Nanjing Normal University. Dean Huang He's scientific research work takes microorganisms as the core, excavates and analyzes microbial resources based on metabolic engineering. Team members introduced our project design and plans this year for advice.
   Dean of Huang He pointed out that synthetic biology has been an emerging multi-disciplinary interdisciplinary discipline in recent years. Currently, many majors do not open the course of synthetic biology. Dean Huang He made suggestions on how undergraduates can learn synthetic biology better, such as adding introductory courses in synthetic biology and encouraging undergraduates to participate in experiments related to synthetic biology.
Fig. 9. Team members introduce the project design to the professor
Fig. 10. Our team members are discussing it with the professor

Fig. 11. Our school team took a group photo with the professor

Part 6. Community popular science publicity

   We enter the community to popularize the science of synthetic biology for the general audience, such as adults, and the elderly, as well as the science popularization of antibiotic-related knowledge in our project.
   We designed leaflets, which introduced what antibiotics are, how to identify the harm of antibiotics, the kinds of antibiotics, antibiotic precautions, and more content. Proleaflets can improve the breadth of publicity and their interest in science. At the end of the leaflet, we introduced our project. We distributed this leaflet to people from the Wenwu Ba Community and Huichang County in Ganzhou City, Jiangxi Province, as well as the Wufu Community in Nanjing City. In the distribution process, we patiently explained the above content to them, answered their questions, and introduced our project. They were very interested in what we advertised, and also expressed their views on our project.
Fig. 12. Community popular science popularization and publicity

Part 7. Science publicity in social media

   In order to better publicize the relevant knowledge of synthetic biology, the latest research results in the field, and the progress of the team project, as well as to improve people's attention to the appropriate expertise, our team has established a public promotion account in the most widely used social tool WeChat. The public promotion account mainly promote the content of two parts. The first is the synthetic biology-related literature report. The second is to update the development of the NNU-China team-related activities in real-time, and summarize the activity feedback in time.
Fig. 13. WeChat official account of NNU-China
Fig. 14. Development and feedback of related activities
Fig. 15. View data of the public account
   Since the establishment of the official account to the end of September, there has been more than 40 original content. The number of followers has reached 159 people, and the cumulative number of more than 2,000 views.
   Through the network (social media platform), our team will widely publicize the relevant knowledge of synthetic biology and antimicrobial peptide research, and attract people's wide attention in the research field.

   Based on the communication with educators in the early stage, the NNU-China team sorted out the problems needing attention in popular science education of different age groups and designed corresponding popular science forms. Popular science groups include children, junior school and high school, undergraduate degree or above, the elderly...... Our team used various forms of popular science to preach and received corresponding feedback in understanding of synthetic biology and antibiotics to different degrees. Synthetic biology is developing rapidly, and its contribution to human health cannot be ignored. Our team studies antimicrobial peptides to address the resistance problems resulting from the abuse of antibiotics and has profound educational implications both for synthetic biology and projects related to human health.