Once upon a time, a little girl was born in Russia. She grew up in an industrial city.
Even though she liked her hometown, she always wondered how nice it would be to live without all those big factories. Later, her thoughts became a belief and this story inspired us…
“What smells bring you back to your childhood? I'll go first. Benzene, ammonia, xylene and toluene.
We all know these big facilities that gather entire cities around them. They are really great for cheap production of goods. But what about workers, citizens, or community members, plants and animals living nearby big manufacturing units?
Well, here I can tell you some of my memories - The explosion at the factory during a morning jog, the land burned by chemicals, the smell of dyes in the forest because of a huge black pond of manufacturing waste...
Even that history with the blue dogs running from a plant… All of this is about the city I call home and is one of the consequences of chemical manufacturing.
The reason being - we need to produce a lot of chemicals in our lives - plastics, textile, solvents, pigments… And my hometown was, at the end of the past century, a center of Russian chemical production.
But despite the advantages of this big industry (like producing at a huge scale), some of its processes could be harmful to humans and to the environment. And it’s not reversible.
While growing up, I started to realize that the use of big facilities could not be a real sustainable and long-lasting solution for chemical production.
I started to think: “What if there was a way of producing, different and better from the one I know?” Soon afterwards, a lot of questions followed...
How can we make the manufacturing process safer and more sustainable? Is local production a good alternative? Could Synthetic Biology participate in replacing chemical organic synthesis and big scary facilities? ...
In my mind, I was already imagining all kinds of bioreactors that could produce what is needed and replace these old factories for good!
Taking all my books with me, I took the plane to go studying abroad and meet new horizons. It was the first time that I was travelling on my own, I was frightened, but also determined to realise my dream.
I remember doing a list of everything I had to do and the places I had to go to. At some point I that I really wanted to go to France!”
The plane dropped me off in Paris with my questions and my hopes. While trying to find my way through the city, I heard about this rather unique biology research centre in the heart of the Marais.
There, I started learning about synthetic biology. And as I dove more deeply into the discipline, I realized all the opportunities it offers but also its limitations.
All the solutions I could come up with were not magical. But my goal to make a more colorful world using synthetic biology remained. In order to help the transition towards a more resilient future, I needed to ask myself the good questions. One of them being biosafety.
I was walking around the corner when I heard a group of other students talking about making a synthetic biology project and taking part in a competition. This is when I met the future 2021 Paris Bettencourt iGEM team.
Altogether with the same values, passion and questions, we started working together not only for my hometown, but for the whole community.
My city may have a dark past, but I strongly believe that it has a very bright future we could build together.