UF iGEM 2021



RISE Presentation Summary


During our team’s preliminary research into the project, we realized that while the moving parts would largely utilize principles of synthetic biology, the application of our project had implications branching from public health to even climate change. Whilst doing this, the team realized that reaching out into the community and explaining a complex scientific topic in easily digestible and relatable terms could not only increase the awareness of our issue but also spark an interest in science for those who previously felt it too dense.

Determining our Target Audience

As such, we realized that we could have the greatest impact in science communication and inspiring others by focusing on a younger audience, such as high school students. We decided to seek out high school students over other cohorts, such as elementary school students, because we felt that the students having taken introductory biology already would be better able to digest the material of our project without risk of alienation.

Once we determined what we wanted to do, the team discussed the best delivery methods of information in order to engage students at the highest level. We recognized that with restrictions still in place in many areas to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that the likelihood of working with students in-person was a low possibility, especially during our time frame in the summer. After searching for opportunities to interact with high-school students in some form during the summer, we discovered the University of Florida’s Research Immersion in Science and Engineering (RISE) program. This program featured high achieving 10th grade students in the United States interested in accelerated scientific research and learning, lasting for 2 weeks virtually during the summer. The team determined that this group of students would not only be a perfect fit for our target demographic, but that their interest in the camp would suggest they have some existing interest in science research.

After reaching out to the program sponsor, UF’s Center for Precollegiate Education and Training, we were put into contact with Dr. Julie Bokor, the RISE program lead.

It was during this meeting that we learned the program was being delivered solely through the virtual Zoom platform, and that there was no in-person component to the program. Despite this serving as a potential obstacle for reaching our goal of creating an interactive presentation to inform and entertain a young audience, we persevered nonetheless. Dr. Bokor had indicated that she may have either a 1 or 2 hour time slot available for us, to let us know as we were closer to the presentation date. Nonetheless, we planned on preparing at least 2 hours of content to accommodate for this possibility.

Given Dr. Bokor’s expertise in the field of education and science communication, we also decided to utilize our meeting time with her to brainstorm ideas on how to construct and deliver our presentation and seek advice on how to maintain a balance between entertaining and informing our audience. She provided a wide array of helpful suggestions that we considered and ended up pursuing for our presentation.

After our meeting with Dr. Bokor and subsequent meetings with the rest of our iGEM team, we planned on incorporating the following for a 2-hour presentation:

  • A PowerPoint presentation
  • An interactive infographic competition
  • A tour of our iGEM lab

As a team, we collectively decided that a PowerPoint presentation would be the most effective and efficient vehicle for delivering information pertaining to the science behind our project. Since we also assumed that most students in the audience would not know what iGEM is, we decided to also use the presentation as an opportunity to introduce the competition to the students. We thus decided on the appropriate structure for our presentation:

  • Part 1: Introduction of iGEM and the UF iGEM team
  • Part 2: Our Project: The problem, context behind it and our goals
  • Part 3: Our Project: The Science behind our procedure and goals
  • Part 4: Tools & Skills we Employ in the Lab

Following the presentation, we planned on introducing an infographic competition to the students, leaving in some time for them to complete it.

Our plan for an infographic competition involved having the students create a quick infographic about their favorite part of our presentation. The students would be invited to use a variety of different tools and softwares to design this infographic and would send it to our email. We would give them about 15 minutes to create the best work they can. Our “top picks” would be featured on our Team Instagram, and the students would be credited on our wiki page.

Following the infographic competition and the small time window we give the students to complete this competition, we would enter the final phase of our presentation, a tour of the lab we use for our work. This was a suggestion from Dr. Bokor, which we thought would help excite the students to see what kind of exciting research exists in the next stages of their education. Although we were still not certain on the date or time slot for the presentation, we were aware that it would be sometime between 12 PM and 3 PM, which was also a good time for us to tour around the lab. Specifically, we planned on showing the students the layout of the lab, followed by all of the equipment and plates that we used in our experiments.

As we arrived closer to the presentation date, Dr. Bokor informed us that we were only given a one hour slot to present. We then had to decide what to remove from our 2 hour presentation, keeping in mind that we wanted to maximize both the information and entertainment factors of our presentation. We decided to keep the PowerPoint presentation component of the presentation and shorten the infographic competition at the end in order to maximize the information aspects of the presentation, which we believed were the biggest components of our partnership with RISE.

When our presentation day came, our content filled in the entire hour slot. We introduced the iGEM foundation, the iGEM competition, and this year’s team members for UF iGEM. Following this, we introduced our project and provided important contextual information to ensure every student could understand the premise of our project. When we began explaining the science behind our project, we made sure to simplify and condense the information, keeping in mind that some of our students had only taken biology at a high school level; therefore, they had little exposure to principles of genetics, microbiology and synthetic biology in general. We closed our presentation by explaining some important and relevant procedures that we perform in the lab, keeping in mind that these are procedures the students themselves may perform in the future.

Check out our presentation below!

Snapshot of the Zoom presentation with RISE

All the faces and names of minors have been blurred out.