Team:NUS Singapore/Collaborations

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Nanyang Technological University


Along with the NTU-Singapore iGEM team, we held a virtual synthetic biology immersion workshop for secondary school and junior college students in Singapore on 4th September 2021. Over 40 school students actively partook in our days' activities and lessons. The event was split into 3 main sections: an introduction to the field of synthetic biology, synbio in diagnostics, and synbio in agriculture. The purpose of this collaboration was to promote awareness about synthetic biology in Singapore, something that the current education system lacks. We wanted to ensure that since the event was online, we make the materials and activities as interactive as possible to bring synthetic biology closer to pre-tertiary students in Singapore. Click here to find out more about our event!

Outreach Event
Outreach Team

Why did we decide to do this collaboration?

Students in Singaporean schools lack exposure to the field of synthetic biology. These concepts are foreign to them before they enter university programs. This restricts their chances to explore and develop an interest in synthetic biology. As members of the NUS iGEM team, we believe in the power of education and the importance of synthetic biology in our lives. Keeping this ethos in mind, in both 2018 and 2019, the NUS iGEM teams worked very hard to bring synthetic biology to the public in a series of events called "Life Hacks!". Following the foundation of their success, we were influenced to expand our reach to an even younger audience than previously targeted, to widen our outreach. Ultimately, to maximise our outreach, we turned to our neighbouring iGEM team at Nanyang Technological University as the previous years did too, to host and collaborate on the event.

How did we help each other?

With frequent online meetings to settle on our content for the event, both the universities developed and refined educational material and activities for the students. We each reached out to several schools and junior colleges to spread the word about the event. While planning the event, our main goal was to ensure that the students learnt about synthetic biology via an interactive medium, and took away something meaningful about the field of synthetic biology.

What did we learn from this collaboration?


We found that communication was important in two senses, one being the way we communicated scientific knowledge to a younger audience, and the second being communication between teams. In terms of science communication, we all learned how to simplify content, making it easier for students who had just been introduced to synthetic biology to grasp all the concepts. Additionally, while working solely using virtual platforms like Zoom meetings, we realised how important communication amongst the teams was essential in running a successful event.


Given that both the teams were hosting a large scale online for the first time, a lot of coordination and teamwork was needed to run it successfully. Working with the NTU team made us realise how people with diverse skills and backgrounds can work together.

University of Zürich &
Manipal Institute of Technology


Earlier this year, our team met with the iGEM teams at the Manipal Institute of Technology and the University of Zürich to learn more about their projects and find out if there was a potential collaboration. All three teams were pursuing a project related to plant health and biopesticides; we realised that we could pursue a more fruitful, three-way collaboration. The collaboration resulted in a stakeholder survey results from three countries - Switzerland, India and Singapore - and a video summarising our results.


Why did we decide to do this collaboration?

The most significant gap in all three of our solutions was the stakeholder perception towards the usage of GMOs in agriculture and consumer perception towards biopesticides in general. To create a more robust project, we wanted to see how stakeholders across the globe had varying perceptions. By incorporating these insights, the teams hoped that their solution's usability would improve. Ultimately, this helped the NUS iGEM team strengthen our human practices.

How did we help each other?

Collaborative Survey

Each team spoke to about 6-10 local stakeholders, including farms, biopesticide producers, consumers and academics, to understand the perception towards GMOs in our own countries. We then summarised our results into a document and discussed our survey results to see how the differing opinions across countries could impact our final solution design.

The NUS iGEM team spoke to 4 local farms with differing farming practices, a network of biopesticide production companies, the local regulatory bodies, a few consumers and R&D scientists. More details are available on our human practices page.

The MIT_MAHE team in India gained insights from an organic farm, a few pesticide production specialists, consumers and even an entomologist. The UZH team in Switzerland spoke organic and conventional indoor and outdoor farms, a large pesticide producer, scientists, an agricultural researcher and a farming association.

Each team brought unique insights to the table. But the underlying sentiment towards GMOs and biopesticides was surprisingly similar across the three countries – if it is proven to be safe, is approved by regulatory bodies, is cheap and effective, the people are happy to use them.

GMO and Biopesticide Perception Video

In line with the results from our surveys, the three teams developed a short discussion video summarising our insights. This video has been uploaded to all our social media accounts. The video not only consolidates all our findings but also promotes awareness about GMO usage and biopesticides. The video can be found here.

What did we learn from this collaboration?

Inclusivity and Diversity

Interacting with teams from different countries made us realise how diverse opinions can be, based on varied cultural contexts. For example, in Singapore, we are quickly getting accustomed to the idea of indoor farms being our primary source of fresh produce. However, in countries like India and Switzerland, where land is not scarce, traditional farming methods are still the most widely used methods. It was fascinating gaining insights from across the globe and learning from them.

More about synthetic biology

Even though the three teams were looking at boosting plant health or tackling pathogens, each of us had such a distinct approach. In our initial meetings, it was fascinating to learn about the techniques each team was employing to achieve their goals!