Project Description | Future Directions | Business Development | Outreach/HP | Safety

Cornell11 outreachgroupphoto.jpg
iGEMers gather on the steps of Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford University, at SB5.0

CommunityBricks and AlumniGEM

At SB5.0, the Cornell, Brown-Stanford, Arizona State, University of Panama, and UTP Panama iGEM teams gathered iGEMers together to discuss two initiatives: a global outreach/human practices collaboration and the formation of the iGEM Alumni Association.

Since SB5.0, many iGEM teams have come together to create CommunityBricks, a resource of outreach and human practices activities for future iGEM teams to use and add to. We envision that this resource--soon to be a part of help iGEM teams promote synthetic biology to the global community.

Additionally, Cornell has been collaborating with iGEM HQ and other iGEM teams to create iGEM's alumni association. We all assisted Brown-Stanford iGEM in creating a fabulous networking tool, the AlumniGEM forums, which contains alumni profiles and discussion platforms. And check out the beginnings of the AlumniGEM website, a collaboration between iGEM teams and iGEM HQ to keep alumni connected to iGEM and synthetic biology!

Here is what Cornell iGEM has done specifically to make these ideas into reality:

  • Initiated the outreach/human practices collaboration at SB5.0
  • Discussed the need for an alumni association with Brown-Stanford
  • Contributed material to the AlumniGEM forums
  • Collaborated with Brown-Stanford to write the text on the AlumniGEM website's splash page
  • Started CommunityBricks (formerly known as iGEM Outreach 2.0) on OpenWetWare
  • Created the site architecture, with assistance from Brown-Stanford
  • Collaborated with Brown-Stanford on making the CommunityBricks logo and site banner
  • Along with Arizona State and Brown-Stanford, created a collaboration invitation letter inviting teams to contribute to CommunityBricks and the AlumniGEM forums and distributed it to every iGEM team
  • Uploaded a lesson plan on synbio ethics and posted three outreach activities (see below)
  • Assisted Arizona State in creating their Exploring Synthetic Biology lesson plan, which utilizes our Ethics of Synthetic Biology discussion
  • Helped Hokkaido, TU Munich, UQ-Australia, and uOttawa post their human practices and outreach activities on CommunityBricks
  • Assisted British Columbia in setting up their iGEM Dictionary collaborative project at the iGEM Americas Jamboree
  • Attended the post-iGEM Americas AlumniGEM/ CommunityBricks workshop to discuss the future of human practices and iGEM's alumni association

iGEM Outreach Collaboration Committee (CollabCom)

  • Madeline Grade, Arizona State
  • Nisarg Patel, Arizona State
  • Jovian Yu, Brown-Stanford
  • Max Song, Brown-Stanford
  • Alyssa Henning, Cornell
  • Ernesto Gomez, Panama
  • Natasha Gomez, Panama
  • Ann Bui, UQ-Australia
  • Grimaldo Elias, UTP-Panama

Additional Collaborators, CommunityBricks

  • HokkaidoU_Japan
  • TU Munich
  • British Columbia
  • uOttawa
  • UNAM-Genomics Mexico
  • Missouri Miners

We thank the following people for providing links to their websites and/or advising us on organizing outreach and human practices collaborations:
  • Genspace (Columbia-Cooper iGEM)
  • Dr. Natalie Kuldell (MIT Biological Engineering/ BioBuilder)
  • Dr. Tom Richard (Pennsylvania State University)

Additional Collaborators, AlumniGEM

We thank the following teams for representing AlumniGEM at iGEM regional jamborees:
  • iGEM Americas: Arizona State, Brown-Stanford, Panama University, UTP-Panama (and Cornell)
  • iGEM Asia: UQ-Australia

And special thanks to iGEM HQ Director Randy Rettberg and Assistant Director Meagan Lizarazo for advising CollabCom on integrating CommunityBricks and AlumniGEM into iGEM's online community.

Cornell iGEM Outreach and Human Practices

Partnership with Cornell Engineering

ENGRG 1050: Ethics of Synthetic Biology

ENGRG 1050 is a freshman-level engineering course that introduces Cornell freshmen to ethical practices and research topics in engineering. Our seminar on the Ethics of Synthetic Biology (approved by Cornell's Bovay Program for Ethics in Engineering) teaches beginning engineering students about ethical issues surrounding current techniques and applications of synthetic biology. Students are encouraged to debate over controversial issues such as utilizing cows to produce milk with human enzymes and patenting cancer screening techniques. Students also learn about different aspects of ethical analysis. Intellectual property rights, potential risks in recombinant DNA technology, progress vs. profit, and other important aspects of the biotechnology industry are also discussed. The seminar’s main purpose is to get students thinking about future work they might participate in and about potential ethical dilemmas they might encounter. The seminar emphasizes the responsibility that engineers have regarding the research they conduct and the products they produce.

Reaching Out to Ithaca

CURIE: Bio Boot Camp

CURIE is a one-week summer program for high school girls who are interested in science and engineering. These girls were invited to Cornell to gain experience in a laboratory working on research-inspired projects. These projects were designed to exercise their ability to problem solve and troubleshoot as they worked towards their goal. Cornell iGEM lead the “Bio Boot Camp” session on the first day of the program, teaching the students basic lab techniques (pipetting small volumes, plating bacteria, running a PCR gel) as well as showing them some of the equipment in the laboratory. During the week that followed, Cornell iGEMers worked as teaching assistants with small teams of students on the following group projects:

  • Microvascular Chips
  • Wireless Combination Lock
  • Sleep Apnea Feedback Device
  • Protein Localization in Mammalian Cells
  • Sun Tracker

For instance, the Microvascular Chips group used a microfluidic chip to model blood flow in small capillaries. They measured baseline flow speeds by taking videos through the laboratory’s microscopes and calculated the resistance in each channel from the flow speeds and channel diameters. Then they plugged one channel to simulate a blood clot and measured the changes in flow speed and channel resistance. Using resistance as an analogy for an electrical circuit, students then calculated the flow speeds that they expected to find based on simple physics and compared their findings to expected results. This project was framed in the context of modeling a small stroke, but it can be also used to model many biological systems involving blood flow in small capillaries.

Ithaca Sciencenter: DNA Made Tangible

A presentation on introductory synthetic biology and its applications was presented to children aged 5-12 at the Ithaca Sciencenter. The presentation included elementary explanations of the central dogma of biology, recombinant DNA technology, cloning techniques, BioBricks, and iGEM. A brief list of fun synthetic biology applications was also presented.

Additionally, hands-on activities were provided to explain genetic diversity and DNA extraction. In the Build-A-Bug activity, children flipped coins to determine the genotypes of their bugs and then built the bugs according to the phenotypes of the different body parts. Through this activity, children learned about basic ideas of dominant and recessive genes. In the DNA Necklace activity, children learned how to isolate DNA from wheat germ. Extracted DNA was placed into eppendorf tubes for children to keep.