Team:Imperial College London/Human/Outreach



Outreach is a very important component of our project. We have endeavoured to increase awareness of synthetic biology in a creative and fun way and reach as many people as possible. We set up Radio iGEM, a podcast about all things iGEM and synthetic biology and we even acted out a play written by one of our team members. We also had two high school-level interns who helped us with our project and we will be putting on a showcase of our project at an event in London’s Natural History Museum.

Radio iGEM

Radio iGEM started out small with our desire to broadcast the music we listen to in the lab to other iGEM teams using the Twitter hashtag #RadioiGEM. Quickly enough, this developed into a full-blown podcast that is also broadcast live. In Radio iGEM, we talk about all things synthetic biology and get guest speakers to discuss their projects.

Episode 1. What makes a good scientific presentation?

In this episode, Frank interviews Outreach Officer and winner of Famelab 2007, Nic Harrigan, to find out how the iGEM teams can prepare for their presentations.

Episode 2. iGEM Watch Watch

In this episode, Frank interviews the writers of the popular iGEM Watch blog to find out what inspired them to do it, and Frank finds out which teams have attracted their interest so far.

Episode 3. The George Freeman interview

In this episode, Frank is given ten minutes with George Freeman MP to ask some questions about the political situation surrounding GM technology.

Episode 4. The Green Siege (Radio Play)

In this special episode, written by Christopher Schoene, the Imperial iGEM team acts out a short play set in the future that Synthetic Biology might take us to.

Episode 5. European Jamboree Part 1 - Meeting of Young Minds

In the first of a three-part special, Frank talks about the first day of the European Jamboree in Amsterdam, paying particular focus to the Meeting of Young Minds event that was held on the Friday evening.

Episode 6. European Jamboree Part 2 - The Main Event

In the second installment in the three-part episode on the European Jamboree, Frank reminisces about the main day of the Jamboree.

Episode 7. European Jamboree Part 3 - The Results

In the conclusion of the Jamboree special, Frank reports on the results of the European Jamboree, and reflects on how it feels to win the Grand Prize.

Script writing

Click on the download button to download a copy of the script.

Figure 1: Chris and Deborah Pearson (professional theatremaker) hacking away at the first draft of the script. (Picture by Imperial College London iGEM team 2011).

Using creative writing as a form of outreach is a novel approach that has not been taken by any other iGEM team before. For episode four of Radio iGEM Chris, who had taken a creative writing course during his second year, decided to write a script that is set in a world where our platform technology is widely implemented. In order to create this world and make it believable he decided to set it in a familiar setting. By weaving the world seamlessly into the narrative of a short high school setting.

Also, in order to give a little bit of a background to this world he decided to use a common trick that involves using a narrative within a narrative. By using the context of a history lesson it was easy to use Mrs. Parkin's dialogue as a plot device to introduce the background in a non-intrusive manner. Then, by using the dialogue between the characters he was able to keep it entertaining while also making it relatable to the listener. By making the world a believable and yet familiar, he hoped to take out the fear that is associated by many people with the unknown of genetic engineering.

The editing process for this short story consisted of a workshop where Deborah Pearson (a professional theatremaker), our RCA advisor CJ (who cooked a lovely meal for us as well) and Kerri Hall (actress and comedienne) took the story and relentlessly slashed through any sections and sentences that were not up to scratch. This process took several hours but it was all worth it in the end. Jake (the "antagonist") became more snarky than before while Mrs. Parkin was given more of an attitude. We hope that you will enjoy listening to our play (bear in mind that we are all new to acting!).

College interns

As part of our project, we had two A-level students from two different colleges come in and help us with the science and art aspects of our project.

Kiran is about to start studying for his A-levels. He arrived on the 3rd of August and remained with us until the 12th of August. In this time he learned a lot in the lab, even contributing towards some of our results (see the study on E. coli survivability in soil). Kiran will be pioneering his college's efforts towards their participation in next year's High school iGEM jamboree. Watch our interview with Kiran below:

Good luck to Eton College's iGEM team for 2012!

Poppy is a soon-to-be A level student. She joined us for a week in early September to start her artistic project which is inspired by the Arts Catalyst lectures from the artists who create work that “experimentally and critically engages with science”, with an aim to create an artistic expression to aid the communication of the project to the general public.

To represent the team's experimental use of GFP, a protein that exhibits fluorescence when under blue light in order to prove that the plant roots had taken up this engineered bacteria, Poppy's artistic project utilizes fluorescein, a compound that dyes orange yellow colour in the present of UV light and glow in the dark, to illustrate how root growth of the plants infected by the bacteria is promoted.

She says, "Due to the frieze like arrangement you will have viewed my work from left to right, allowing a story to be told. Please have a closer look using the portable light. This emits UV, causing the fluorescein to glow. The larger plants seem brightest; representing the successful uptake of engineered bacteria and therefore promotion of root growth."

Figure 2: An artistic representation of our project made by our team intern Poppy Field. (Picture by Imperial College London iGEM team 2011).

"Science Uncovered" event at the Natural History Museum

Figure 3. A young kid playing with our biobricks at our stand at the Science Uncovered event. (Picture by Imperial College London iGEM team 2011).

We participated at the Science Uncovered event on the 23rd of September. This event was part of the European Researchers' Night, a Europe-wide event in which scientists interact with the public and talk about their research.

We presented our project and talked about synthetic biology in general to interested members of the public. Our giant furry E. coli and plastic "BioBricks" were especially popular.

Figure 4. Chris with our famous furry E. coli

Meeting of Young Minds at the Rathenau Instituut

Figure 5. iGEM participants in the Meeting of Young Minds debate (picture by Imperial iGEM 2011).

The Rathenau Instiuut is an Amsterdam-based institute that aims to "promote the formation of political and public opinion on science and technology". In preparation of the regional iGEM Jamboree, it hosted an interdisciplinary debate between young politicians and scientists. In this debate, two politicians discussed pre-prepared statements on how synthetic biology should be regulated and what its impact on society as a whole could become. All other attending politicians and members from selected iGEM teams were invited to comment on these statements.

We were asked to be part of the panel of young scientists at the debate. Rebekka represented our team during the debate.

Publicising our wiki

Lisa got creative and made a QR code linking to our wiki out of post-its on the window of the Bessemer building at Imperial College London. This window faces a large open courtyard that hundreds of people walk through every day to get to different ends of the campus. We have seen lots of people take out their mobile phones to use the QR scanning app, you can try it yourself on the picture below!

Figure 6: Use this close up image with a QR scanning app to get to our wiki... which you are already on...(Picture and QR code by Imperial College London iGEM team 2011).

Figure 7: A QR code linked to our wiki made of post-it notes in the window of the Bessemer Bioengineering building at Imperial College London. (Picture and QR code by Imperial College London iGEM team 2011).


Click here to visit our blog.

Figure 8: A newspaper headline to help us to consider the potential unwanted effects of our project. (Image by Charlotte Jarvis, RCA Advisor)

This is a collection of our more social work that we wanted to open up for comment by the public. It includes lists of some of the desertification experts that we contacted, some interesting news stories and images on the theme of synthetic biology and roots, and a hypothetical newspaper drawn by our RCA Advisor, CJ

Frank also got the chance to write a guest blog post for Lab Rat at Scientific American Blogs about our project and to try and spread the word about synthetic biology and iGEM.

In addition, we were also featured on the Imperial College Life Sciences Undergraduate blog, which we hope will really help to get some attention amongst young life scientists who may become future iGEMers.