As part of Integrated Human Practices, TAS_Taipei sought to expand our project goals to a larger community. TAS_Taipei approached education with a two fold focus on both providing introductory concepts to synthetic biology and project-based teaching. Our team aimed to diversify the mediums for education from conducting radio interviews to creating online activity packets in order to be inclusive of as many people as possible.
Bioethics Panel Discussion
In March, we hosted a Bioethics Panel to discuss the ethical concerns revolving around our project. These discussions were conducted to gain more insight into the thoughts of our TAS school community to establish a baseline for issues that our Activities/Human Practice team would address. In our panel, we explained the importance of our project through the lens of blood transfusions, the blood shortage in Taiwan, and the dangers of blood incompatibility. We then moved on to examine three topics: correlation between blood type and personality, patient consent, and the commercialization of blood.
Figure 1 - Ketsueki-Gata Theory charts that were passed out during the Bioethics Panel for the Kahoot Game
Figure 2 - Roundtable Discussions
Figure 3 - Discussing the ethics of commercializing blood
To facilitate discussion among the members at each table, we played a quick Kahoot icebreaker game in which each table worked collaboratively to guess the blood types of our TAS faculty members using the Ketsueki-Gata Theory (see Fig 1). The Ketsueki-Gata Theory is embraced by many in Japanese society and is based on the notion that a person’s blood type is directly correlated to their personality. Regardless of how accurate the Ketsueki-Gata Theory is, it still offers a fun approach to thinking about the different blood types and their connection to the various personality traits (Walden University, 2021).
To test the validity of the Ketsueki-Gata Theory, we performed a Pearson’s Chi-Squared goodness of fit statistical analysis test using Kahoot results from the Bioethics Panel. We wanted to determine whether the Ketsueki-Gata Theory is an effective way to classify people’s blood types based on their personality. Our results showed that there was not a statistically significant difference between each of the blood type choices for each faculty member; essentially, each table group was merely guessing and the personality chart provided by the Ketsueki-Gata Theory was not of much assistance in the process. This shows that one cannot accurately predict a person's blood type by assessing subjective personality traits. (For further technical details, refer to CHI-SQUARED TEST FOR BIOETHICS PANEL below)
We then explored a real-life court case involving the blood transfusion performed on a member of the religious group Jehovah’s witnesses. Jehovah’s witnesses oppose receiving donated blood from others, thus opening the floor for discussion on the topic of patient consent for transfusion processes (Medical Protection, 2021).We found that the majority of attendees believed that physicians should respect their patient’s values and decisions. In regards to the discussion on the use of modified blood for transfusions, a topic that directly links to our project, we found that most participants think that the conditions of the modified blood must be outlined to the patients clearly, and should be noted down in a separate box on patient consent forms. The ideas that were expressed, including the importance of patients’ wishes and transparency between physicians and patients, were considered in our future HP works.
After wrapping up on Patient Consent, we moved on to our last topic, which was the commercialization of blood. Our attendees had different perspectives on whether blood should be considered a commodity, but when our project’s modified blood was discussed, there was a general consensus that the prices of modified blood would be based on the price to manufacture the blood. However, many attendees also believed that if modified blood were to be commercialized on a large scale, the price of modified blood would decrease. We would further explore these monetary ideas with our marketing plan.
All in all, the Bioethics Panel definitely helped us determine the ideas that we needed to further explore and address with our project.
Chi-squared Test on the Ketsueki-Gata Theory for Bioethics Panel
To determine whether or not the blood type personality theory from the Bioethics Panel is plausible in predicting one’s blood type, we can conduct a statistical significance test to determine whether or not Kahoot participants could successfully assign the personalities of different TAS faculty members to a specific blood type after being provided with the personality chart. The Pearson’s chi-squared test determines whether there is a statistically significant difference between two sets of values, which in our case, is whether or not the distribution of votes is significantly skewed towards the correct answer choice. The formula for conducting the test is as follows:
where χ2 denotes the Pearson critical value, Oi denotes the observed value (the actual number of votes from the Kahoot for a blood type), and Ei is the expected value (each is 2.5 representing an even distribution of the 10 votes across 4 choices). Typically, the Pearson’s chi-squared test requires expected values above 5. However, Larntz (1975) found that for goodness of fit tests, a small sample size results in only minor differences, and thus we could use this chi-squared test despite our small sample size. The other statistical inference requirements had been met as well.
In statistical terms, our testing hypotheses are:
Null Hypothesis (H0): Observed # of Votes for Each Blood Type = Expected # of Votes for Each Blood Type (2.5)
Alternate Hypothesis (Ha): Observed # of Votes for Each Blood Type ≠ Expected # of Votes for Each Blood Type (2.5)
Our null hypothesis assumes that our Kahoot participants were essentially guessing, and thus the theory cannot be practically applied to determine one’s blood type. On the other hand, our alternative hypothesis assumes that the participants were able to utilize this theory to be able to predict strongly for a particular blood type regardless of whether or not the prediction is correct.
To conduct the statistical inference test, we attempted to reject the null hypothesis. This is done by calculating the χ2 critical values for each question and determining the associated P-value with 3 degrees of freedom. The P-value represents the probability of getting the observed values should the null hypothesis be correct. The lower the P-value, the more power we have to reject the null hypothesis. Conventionally, the P-value should be less than 0.05 for us to reject the null hypothesis. In our case, for the Ketsueki-Gata theory to be relevant, the null hypothesis for at least an overwhelming majority (75%) of the questions should be rejected, and there should also be a majority of answers chosen being of the correct blood type. In other words, Kahoot participants should be able to predict strongly for a particular blood type for most of the teachers and predict the correct blood type in each instance. The statistical analysis results are below.
Table 1 - Chi-squared Test results for the Ketsueki-Gata Theory
Our results show that the Ketsueki-Gata Theory of personality and blood type was not helpful for students determining the blood types of teachers as all P-values were greater than 0.05 (Table #1). The data and results from the participants were essentially equivalent to taking a random guess, as they were well distributed throughout all the answer choices. In addition, very few participants successfully matched faculty members to their correct blood type. Even though some correct answers were matched by the majority of votes, there was little statistical significance in that similarity, as they were simply the product of chance. In statistical terms, we failed to reject our null hypothesis that the observed number of votes for each choice were similar to the predicted number of votes under random chance. Therefore, the Ketsueki-Gata Theory is not effective in predicting one’s blood type, or even able to have strong predictions (even false ones) of one’s blood type over many samples.
We reached out to China Post to write a public awareness article that is currently in press, discussing the urgent need for blood supply and donations in Taiwan. We first introduced our project and how we aim to develop a kit that can convert other types of blood to the universal donor O-type blood to alleviate the blood shortage issue. Then, we discussed our experience with the pandemic and how it has affected our research process. We explained the creative ways we had to come up with in order to work around the stringent COVID-19 regulations. We further explained our experimental progress and the other aspects we worked on during Taiwan’s period of lockdown. To conclude, we emphasized our project goal of spreading awareness regarding the importance of blood donations.
Figure 4 - The China Post Logo
We were also interviewed by the bilingual local radio station ICRT, where we shared information regarding our project and the pressing need for blood donations in Taiwan. We first gave an overview of our project and how it aims to tackle the issue of low blood supply through the development of a kit that utilizes enzymes to convert other blood types into the universal donor blood type O. The anchor then moved on to ask about the other applications of our project aside from resolving the blood shortage issue, in which we explained how our approach has potential applications in organ transplants and xeno transfusions. The interview audio clip can be found here.
Figure 5 - ICRT Logo
7th Grade Education
In April, we hosted a seventh-grade event in which we taught TAS’ Class of 2026 basic synthetic biology concepts such as central dogma, gene sequence, and gel electrophoresis with a presentation and activities in order to introduce them to synthetic biology.
We began our presentation by giving the seventh graders a brief introduction to our project, which consisted of the dangers of transfusing incompatible blood types. By cutting off the ‘markers’, or antigens, that differentiate the different blood types, we can create universal O-type blood that can be transfused safely.
We continued by teaching the basics of synthetic biology, including central dogma and gene expression. With the topic of central dogma, we explained how DNA has to undergo transcription and translation to create proteins. With gene expression, we introduced the functions of the promoter, ribosome binding site, open reading frame, and terminator. We then switched to the topic of gel electrophoresis, which showed the seventh graders that parts of the DNA could be separated based on their sizes.
After our presentation, we started the experimental activities with the seventh graders, which consisted of a wet and dry lab part. For the wet lab, we taught them how to correctly use a pipette. With this knowledge, they were able to pipette 6 different colored charged dyes into the wells of agar gels, which we later ran so that the students could determine which dyes were positively or negatively charged. For the dry lab, we created various scenarios in which the students would have to assemble constructs from our cut-out gene sequences to solve the problem.
Figure 6 - An iGEM member teaching 7th graders Gel Electrophoresis
Figure 7 - 7th graders learning pipetting skills
Figure 8 - 7th graders listening to our presentation
Figure 9 - Presenting to 7th graders about our project
With this event, we were able to effectively engage with the seventh-grade students in these activities and successfully spark an interest in synthetic biology within them.
Figure 10 - Thank you card from 7th graders to iGEM team
We launched our own educational website in early July of 2021 (tinyurl.com/TASTaipei-SynBioEducation) containing activity packets intended to teach those interested in learning about synthetic biology all over the world. This launch date coincides with summer break, providing resources for teachers who are preparing materials for the new school year or parents looking for summer learning material. Inclusivity is a central focus of this website; our free and downloadable activity packets come in both English and Mandarin Chinese, as does our website. We want to lower the barriers to education and allow everyone to have access to free learning resources to learn about fascinating science topics. These online activity packets are especially beneficial during the Covid-19 pandemic time period, as it allows students to learn safely without the need of in-person classes.
Each activity packet is composed of an instructional video, printable worksheet, and a “potential answer” answer key. To give an introduction to synthetic biology, there are 3 different activity packets: central dogma, gene expression, and gel electrophoresis. These downloadable materials allow people to learn scientific concepts without the need of lab materials. To make these materials applicable to younger ages, the worksheet activities are puzzle-based. When students complete an activity packet, they can email us a photo of their completed worksheet to receive a certificate.
Figure 11 - Home page of our Synthetic Biology educational website
We partnered with the BioBuilder Educational Foundation to create a Google Slide Presentation that digitized our “Gene Expression” activity packet. Educators can make their own copy of this presentation and make changes that will be adapted to their class. Along with BioBuilder, we distributed our education website to science-related Facebook groups as well as local schools.
Figure 12 - BioBuilder Educational Foundation’s logo
In May of 2021, we launched a Tiktok page to encourage exposure to synthetic biology through short informational videos. Our Tiktoks utilized helpful visual aids and analogies to provide easy-to-understand “crash courses” on a variety of topics. We produced videos with information on synthetic biology concepts, blood-related topics that connected to our project, fun scientific facts, as well as light-hearted trends that we adapted to involve the field of synthetic biology.
Figure 13 - TAS_Taipei’s Tik Tok Page
iGEM x Girls in Stem x FRC
In September of 2021, we partnered with Girls in STEM (GIS), a student organization within our school with a mission to mitigate the STEM gender gap, as well as our school’s First Robotics Competition (FRC) team to hold a collaboration event: STEM Workshop. STEM Workshop aimed to break down barriers students face when trying to enter STEM fields and allow students to gain an introductory understanding of the varying STEM fields. We invited young female students to explore, through hands-on experience, science, and technology fields. Our event promoted inclusivity and equity in male-dominated fields of study and encouraged young women to break down gender barriers in STEM. One survey found that out of 236 companies in the synthetic biology industry, only 14.4% (34 companies) were led by women (Hyde, 2018). However, synthetic biology, while still being a relatively new field, is able to fully address the gender inequality in STEM fields, and thus our workshop raised awareness while actively promoting female involvement in the field (Schyfter, 2020). TAS_Taipei, GIS, and FRC all held hour-long workshops in the fields of synthetic biology, data science, and robotics, respectively. TAS_Taipei’s own workshop focused on teaching and giving an introduction to DNA extraction and bacterial streaking.
The 30 participants, split off into three groups of ten, were first introduced to the field of Synthetic Biology and our team’s project. We then moved on to discuss the gender disparities that exist within the field and how TAS_Taipei is striving to reduce the stigmatization of women joining the STEM field. After that, we gave an introduction to the basics of DNA and went over each step of the protocol to extract DNA from strawberry samples. Participants then shifted to the hands-on portion of the workshop, where they followed the DNA extraction protocol with the help of our team members. After the DNA was successfully extracted from the strawberry cells, we regrouped and introduced the next activity, bacterial streaking. We first demonstrated how to streak agar plates, then allowed the participants to choose from a variety of colorful strains to draw on the plates with. Through this, the participants were able to learn lab techniques while having fun and creating art. We ended the workshop by explaining how bacterial streaking helps us with making proteins for our project and then sent the group of participants off to their next workshop as we waited for our next group to arrive.
Figure 14 - Participants extracting DNA from strawberries
Figure 15 - Bacteria designs created by STEM Workshop participants
Aboriginal School - TAS_Taipei X TAS IF Club X Jianshi Junior High School
In October of 2021, together with Initiative Formosa Club, another TAS organization promoting Taiwanese culture through service, we partnered with Jianshi Junior High School, a school serving the Atayal Aboriginal population of Jianshi Township, Hsinchu County, Taiwan. The Aboriginal population of Taiwan, having been historically discriminated against, now face a disadvantage in acquiring resources for education. With a mission to achieve equity in education, TAS_Taipei hosted a virtual introductory level lesson in science for students in 7th to 9th grade and sent over materials and equipment needed for the lesson.
Figure 16 - Virtual Lesson with Jianshi Jr. High Students
Our lesson first reviewed concepts of mass and volume, in turn giving an introduction to density, concentrations, and dilutions of solutions. The students were then introduced to lab equipment and techniques using the materials we sent over. After familiarising themselves with the lab skills, the students were given a colored solution and asked to conduct a serial dilution to a certain concentration, with a demonstration as an example. Then they were presented with a scenario involving diluting the solution until the color was no longer visible, and were asked to devise methods to calculate the concentration of the “clear” solution. Through this activity, we gave the students an increased opportunity to not only conduct hands-on experiments, but also to explore and help develop their interests in the sciences.
Figure 17 - Group photo with the Jianshi students
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