Team:NUS Singapore/Communication

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In collaboration with the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) iGEM, we organized a half-day workshop entitled μBioMachines. Targeted towards Pre-University students, μBioMachines aimed to introduce students to synthetic biology basics and some famous industry applications.


Synthetic biology is a growing field with many promising applications. In 2015, the National University of Singapore opened up Synthetic Biology for Clinical and Technological Innovation (SynCTI), the first-ever centre dedicated to Synthetic Biology research in Singapore. Since then, the Synthetic Biology field has expanded, giving rise to a booming industry in Singapore

The topic of Synthetic Biology has not been well covered in secondary and tertiary educational industries in Singapore. In Junior Colleges, the syllabus in Biology is focused on molecular biology and human anatomy, with minimal exposure to gene editing. The lack of exposure in Synthetic Biology continues in university as well, where NUS and NTU have only 2 modules dedicated to Synthetic Biology and Engineering Biology being offered.

In order to spark an interest in Synthetic Biology among students in secondary institutions, we collaborated with NTU iGEM on μBioMachines. The event aimed to provide a high-level introduction into Synthetic Biology and the various applications it can have in industries. We held this with the assistance from the National Junior College’s Science department, which was speaheaded by Ms Lim Wei Li. With this partnership, we began ideating on how to successfully run the event.

Our main considerations for the event was how do we keep it simple enough for our target audience while still getting them excited about synthetic biology. We hence chose to adopt a more interactive approach similar to previous iGEM events to maximise audience participation and engagement!

A large factor in the planning of the event was the Safety Management Measures (SMM) placed in Singapore due to the ongoing pandemic. With various conditions in mind, NUS and NTU iGEM opted to hold it as an online workshop. We chose to use various online platforms such as Miro and gDevelop to build tools and activities to engage our target audience.

The Event

μBioMachines was organised to promote the basics of synthetic biology as an emerging field among pre-university students. We partnered with National Junior College (NJC), a leading secondary institution in Singapore, to help promote the event to other secondary institutions in Singapore. In all, we were able to reach out to 8 different secondary institutions across the country, aiming at students studying in Upper Secondary and Junior College.

The event was kicked off with an introduction to synthetic biology and what it entails. The students were introduced to what synthetic biology is and how deep it has permeated into various different industries. Teams were also made aware of the innovative past projects by iGEM teams and the active participation of students in furthering the development of synthetic biology.

Following the introduction into synthetic biology, NUS iGEM followed up with a lecture on the basics of synthetic biology. Using the case study of insulin production by E.Coli, We covered the topics on the central dogma of DNA and how this leads into the basic principles revolving around synthetic biology. We introduced the participants to the basics of Synthetic Biology Open Language (SBOL), BioBricks and how the DBTL principle applies to Synthetic Biology.

Throughout the lecture, participants were encouraged to interact with the lecturer and each other via QnA sessions. Participants actively responded to questions that helped recap the content and learn to apply this to real-life situations.

Beyond the interactive lectures, the iGEM teams used a variety of online resources to allow students to have a virtual experience in Synthetic Biology.

A virtual lab was constructed via gDevelop to orientate the students around a virtual lab and expose themselves to the various different tools and techniques in Synthetic Biology.

We further created a drag-and-drop build your own circuit activity to simulate SBOL and BioBricks. Furthermore, we used Kahoot quizzes and Mentimeter to allow audiences to participate in fast-paced quizzes and collaborative activities

From this juncture, the program shifted its ficus towards the real-world application of Synthetic Biology. This was kick-started by a presentation on Diagnostics and Synthetic Biology. The team went through how Synthetic Biology has allowed for faster and more efficient diagnostics kits to be designed, and how these novel applications were used to build the diagnostics kits recently during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

We then presented on the applications of Synthetic Biology in agriculture and food sciences. The team covered how synthetic biology can be used to meet the food needs of land-scarce Singapore. Topics such as artificial flavouring, biopesticides and even modern fermentation techniques were covered. We then linked the applications to various different real-life examples such as Perfect Day and Impossible Meat!


μBioMachines was a success! We were able to host close to 40 students in total for an afternoon of fun and interactive activities.

We conducted a post-event survey to gauge our participants’ enjoyment of the different components and their enjoyment of the events. We started by asking them how they found the overall conduct of the event on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 being they didn’t enjoy it and 4 being they enjoyed it a lot). Of the responses, a large majority of the participants ranked it between 3 and 4!

We also asked the students whether they enjoyed the different activities (1 for 'Yes' and 2 for 'No'). Both the Interactive Lab and the Build-Your-Own-Circuit activities received overwhelmingly positive reviews, where three-quarters of the participants indicated their enjoyment.

We also asked if the students found the content to be interesting. On a range of 1 to 4 (1 being not interesting to 4 being very interesting), most of the participants responded with a 4 and 3, showing that our content was engaging!

Similarly, we attempted to find out how effective our activities were in teaching the students (1 for 'Effective' and 2 for 'Not Effective'). We found that most of the students found these activities effective in teaching the basic concepts of synthetic biology, inspiring their curiosity and allowing them to learn more about synthetic biology.

One of our key considerations in the event was to create content that was easy to understand. We asked the participants how difficult they found the content on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 being very easy and 4 being very difficult). Most participants chose either 2 or 3, showing the suitability of our content for the target audience. It showed that our event was able to be informative without being overly complicated!

As teams of iGEM, we believe in the spirit of education and the truly amazing power of Synthetic Biology in our everyday world! The positive response from μBioMachines has shown that the topic of Synthetic Biology is here to stay for a long time! We hope to potentially expand this event to a larger and more diverse audience, ranging from students in secondary and tertiary institutions and to the general public as well!


As teams of iGEM, we believe in the spirit of education and the truly unique power of Synthetic Biology in our everyday world! The positive response from μBioMachines has shown that the topic of Synthetic Biology is here to stay for a long time! We hope to potentially expand this event to a larger and more diverse audience, ranging from students in secondary and tertiary institutions and the general public! We are incredibly grateful to Ms. Lim for assisting us with this event, and we hope to continue promoting Synthetic Biology to Singapore!