Team:Sydney Australia/Communication


Our project was inspired by the potential for synthetic biology to better our world we live in by solving global problems in health, the environment and food security. We believe this vision for the future is dependent on establishing a curious and compassionate workforce of synthetic biology researchers in the next generation.

To help realise this vision, our team focused our scientific outreach and communication efforts on engaging with primary and secondary school students to teach them about the scientific principles that underpin synthetic biology and inspire them about its current and future applications.

HSC Biology Educational Resource

Our design for a naturally transformable lab strain of E. coli will provide a cheaper, more efficient and safe host organism for synthetic biology to facilitate greater use in secondary and tertiary education, both in Australia and in the wider global community.

In concert with the accessible synthetic biology technology we have researched and designed, we identified a need to improve and expand the pipeline of highly skilled synthetic biology researchers to fulfill future demand. We believe that shaping the scientists of tomorrow starts by sowing the seeds of scientific curiosity in children. A key focus for our project was to engage with primary and high school students to teach and spark their curiosity in synthetic biology.

We consulted the Australian High School and Higher School Certificate Biology Curriculum and Syllabus.

We identified numerous points of alignment between our project and the Preliminary and HSC Syllabus, and were able to develop an educational resource for students that outlines and explains the role of the scientific method in our research and uses features of our project's background literature, research question and design to teach parts of the syllabus using real-world research examples.

We have also linked concepts explored in our research project to the Stage 5 (Years 9 and 10) Syllabus to prepare Stage 5 students with an interest in studying biology at a senior or university level.

This educational resource allows students to gain a deeper understanding of the research process, including identifying limitations and challenges to research such as COVID-19 restrictions.

Primary School Educational Resource

To extend the reach of our synthetic biology educational engagement to primary school students, we developed an educational resource consisting of a slidedeck, worksheet and practical experiment instructions to lay the early foundations for a career in synthetic biology research by getting the youngest generation excited about DNA, the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology and GMOs.

Our education content covers:
1) What is DNA?
2) The history of modifying DNA to make GMOs and current tools to make GMOs, and
3) Government regulation of GMO food and why it is important for the Government to regulate GMO food.

Students have the option to supplement the slidedeck and worksheet by participating in two at-home science experiments with the supervision of a parent or guardian to further demonstrate these concepts:
1) isolation of strawberry DNA to enable students to visualise DNA as the part of the organism that is changed to make a GMO, and
2) making homemade agar plates for students to culture bacteria and visualise microbes.


Roseville College

During Australia's National Science Week, our team visited more than fifty Year 5 students at Roseville College to run a lesson on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their applications. We also provided a lesson slidedeck, virtual activities and a lab manual for at-home science experiments to consolidate learning.

We held an open Q&A with the students to answer anything and everything they might want to know about synthetic biology, and we were extremely impressed with the calibre of their questions and understanding. Our discussion covered a wide range of topics, including gene therapy for genetic blindness, how UV rays can mutate DNA and cause skin cancer, and whether it is ethical to genetically modify humans.

"The team's expertise and the skillful manner in which they engaged with the girls, was exemplary!" - Karen, Class Teacher
"The girls LOVED the presentation and were full of knowledge about what they had learnt. They mentioned it had inspired them to think about doing science at university." - Jane, Assistant Head of Junior School

Caroline Chisholm College

In the 1st week of Term 4, our team visited Stage 5 (Years 9 and 10) students at Caroline Chisholm College to present an interactive lecture on synthetic biology and the application of the scientific method in real research, using our project as a case study. The content of our presentation was targeted at demonstrating the applications of concepts taught in Stage 5 science, such as the role of prokaryotic cell structure in our project's design, and laying the foundation for the concepts the students would encounter in their preliminary and HSC Biology studies. The presentation was well-received, with several students engaging in our Q&A expressing interest in pathways to a career in synthetic biology research.

Marist College Eastwood

In the 1st week of Term 4, we visited Year 12 students at Marist College Eastwood to present about genetics, synthetic biology, our project and science at university. We framed our discussion around curriculum dot points in preparation for their upcoming HSC, focussing on the scientific method, ethics and research. We prepared slides that acted as revision of some key topics such as chromosomes and the fundamental dogma of cell biology as well as how we leverage interdisciplinary skills to model and make predictions. Overall, the students enjoyed our presentation, loved the E.Coli EP and were excited about studying science next year at university. For team members who presented, it was an excellent opportunity to translate high level concepts into digestible information and achieve Free Coli's overarching goal - to allow more people to access and get involved with synthetic biology.