Team:British Columbia/Perceptions


Team: British Columbia -

Raising Awareness of iGEM and Synthetic Biology - UBC Orientation September 6, 2011

Imagine UBC is the University's orientation and transition program for undergraduate students. 5,000 first-year students, along with upper-year students, and the greater UBC community, are invited to The Main Event, a showcase of campus life with over 200 informative resource booths! We gave strawberry DNA extraction demos and asked students what they thought synthetic biology meant!


A DIY quick protocol: mash up strawberries, mix thoroughly with salt and soap water, filter through a coffee filter or cheesecloth and aliquot the liquid filtrate into microcentrifuge tubes. Carefully add ethanol on top of the water layer, rotate gently and see the DNA precipitate out into the ethanol layer (the shimmery bubbly stuff). I think I see a double helix!

What IS synthetic biology?

To help convey what iGEM and synthetic biology is to the community, our team has started an iGEM Dictionary on the outreach wiki. We will be organizing an activity at the Jamboree to fill up this dictionary with the help of all attending iGEM teams! So please keep an eye out for us and visit our poster!

One of the UBC iGEM team's goals is to probe public understanding of synthetic biology and in particular see if it changes over the years. Is the presence of your iGEM team changing public knowledge and perception of synthetic biology?

In 2010, we asked hundreds of students for their definition of synthetic biology and produced this word cloud based on the frequency of keywords:

In 2011, we again asked hundreds of students for their definition of synthetic biology and produced a second word cloud:

It looks like the same keywords keep popping up: Biology, Making, Creating, Man-Made, Synthetic, Fake, Artificial, DNA, life. But it makes you wonder what these terms mean to the individual. What does making and creating man-made synthetic fake artificial DNA biology life mean personally, socially, ethically, environmentally, politically and economically? Check out this xtranormal video inspired by the answers we got from hundreds of undergraduates!

What is Synthetic Biology?