He Fei Science and Technology Museum

     Letting the public have a taste of synthetic biology is very meaningful. So we planned to hold an offline event with the theme of synthetic biology and expand the influence of the activity as much as possible, so that more people could participate in it, especially those children who have a strong interest in scientific knowledge. So we decided to go to a public place to hold such an event. This idea is very challenging. To achieve this, we contacted He Fei Science and Technology Museum holding the intention to arise the interest in synthetic biology among the public. Fortunately, our idea was warmly welcomed and then we worked together bringing a magic biology adventure to the visitors (most of them are parents and their children) at the Dragon Boat Festival.

     The theme of this activity is “The Magic World of Synthetic Biology”. Visitors to the Science and Technology Museum are mainly children and their parents. Taking into account the actual situation of our target audience, we carefully designed the content and format of this event, hoping to provide visitors with an unforgettable scientific journey in a simple, intuitive and interesting way. We presented several “Magic Classes” to create an atmosphere in Harry Potter style!
TRANSFORMATION CLASS (DNA extraction in a live experiment)
     We mixed fresh banana with salt and detergent, and then smashed the mixture to get juice rich in DNA. Finally, we added cold alcohol to make the DNA coming out in the shape of the wet fiber.
MAGIC SPELL CLASS (science class about synthetic biology)
     An interactive stage presentation was shown in the museum. Considering the age and comprehension of our little audiences, we used slides with attractive pictures to teach them some basic concepts and a classic example, the development of recombinant human insulin (rh-insulin), so that they could get the point of this field with fun.

     We even designed an animated model of plasmid and used this material object version to better convey the knowledge!
DIVINATION CLASS (exhibition of culture mediums painted with colorful engineering bacteria)

     Engineering bacteria that can produce rhodopsin were used as a purple pigment to paint various pictures and words on culture mediums. During the process of growing, culture mediums will become more and more colorful. We prepared dozens of such “Magic Instruments” and hold a small exhibition. The final result did not let us down. As you can see, it was awesome!
Apart from all these classes, we also have…
     In this interesting activity, we found that most parents' and children's passion for science is beyond our imagination. They were willing to participate in and enjoyed the activities we designed. This gives us more confidence to work in a much bigger field where we need to face the public. In addition, we found that scientific interpretation for the public is not so easy. Their knowledge of science is limited. Many professional concepts that we are accustomed to are very unfamiliar to them. So the discourse system used in the development work will encounter many obstacles in such scenarios. We must take this into account when we introduce our products to the public. We should convey the information in a way that they can understand. Only in this way can we better allow our products to be widely accepted and recognized.
Official Account

In such a connected world, social media is a powerful tool to convey ideas and get the public involved. And we are lucky enough to live in a time where everybody can achieve this with highly developed platforms. We chose WeChat, maybe the most widely used social application in China, as a window to show ourselves and spread meaningful and interesting content. We created an official account called “南七 iGEM” which WeChat users can subscribe to and read all our posts.

During these months, we have posted several articles and videos. In our first article, we discussed a social focus that nucleic acid testing might go false positive and gave our explanation at the beginning of the covid pandemic. Until now, this post has received over 800 reads! This article was born at a time when the pandemic hit the world without mercy. People were scared and put too many expectations on this method. So when it went false positive, negative emotions like anger and distrust might come into being. As a team working on a diagnosis method, we wanted to remove such misunderstandings. We hoped people can know how nucleic acid testing works by reading this post that told the truth in an interesting way. After realizing the uncertainties faced by nucleic acid testing, people should consider this problem more rationally, and have more understanding plus patience with this method, instead of simply complaining. This is an example of our efforts to make the world a better place. What’s more, we also introduced some of our research directions. If you are interested, please follow us!

During these months, we have posted several articles and videos. In our first article, we discussed a social focus that nucleic acid testing might go false positive and gave our explanation at the beginning of the covid pandemic. Until now, this post has received 800+ reads! What’s more, we also introduced some of our research directions. If you are interested, please follow us!
Course: Introduction to Synthetic Biology

On the campus, The most convenient way to learn a field is to take a course. To give students in USTC access to systematic training in synthetic biology, Prof. Hong Jiong, our PI, presented a course called Introduction to Synthetic Biology. Students can easily choose this course considering their interests, and they can get credits after finishing it. This course will introduce the basic principles, methods, the advantage of synthetic biology, and the advance of synthetic biology. The students will discuss how we can obtain more information on synthetic biology and integrate them into our studies. Finally, the students will be required to design a project based on their interested field. We believe that every student who takes this course will have a thorough understanding of synthetic biology.

     Having attended iGEM for over 10 years, we have to face the problem that nobody can stay forever as a team member. As a result, we pay particular attention to letting other students (especially the freshmen) know about us, which is the fundament for them to get interested and even join us. To achieve this, we made a lot of efforts. Posters were posted everywhere, saying that there is a presentation by iGEM-USTC. Then during the meeting, we introduced iGEM itself and illustrated how we develop a project by using our former project as an example. This meeting-up turned out to be a success. We were amazed by their passion and even a group chat was created for later discussion and recruitment. Now, more than half of our team members are from this recruitment.
CCIC Meet Up

     CCiC is the biggest event for Chinese iGEMers to meet with each other and share ideas. We attended the 8th CCiC in Shanghai in august virtually because of the pandemic. However, we still learned a lot from the presentations by other groups and teachers. During these days, 79 groups from different places get together (mostly on WeChat and Live sessions) and shared ideas with great passion. We also presented our project to all our friends and received nice feedback.