Team:NRP-UEA-Norwich/Human Outreach


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Human Practices

The UEA NRP team really went up and beyond this year, carrying out a wide selection of activity's to inform the public of both synthetic biology and iGEM, aiming to raise awareness of this branch of science. We used many methods of communication in order to cater for a range of audiences, including a radio show, newspaper articles, pubic events and talks as well as collaborating with all the other UK teams, in order to organize the UK team meet up and steam it live on the internet.

iGEM collaborations

The iGEM UK team meet up, hosted by the NRP-UEA team at Google campus London (Friday 17th August) The most open and publically accessible UK team meetup EVER

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The NRPUEA iGEM team organised and hosted the UK team meet up at Google campus in London. The NRPUEA iGEM team greeted the UK teams, provided refreshments and a lovely buffet lunch, as well as chairing the speeches and making sure the day ran smoothly. There was a great atmosphere at the meet up, and the event was a huge success.

The day consisted of a number of guest speakers, including advice and tips for iGEM success from Dr. Tom Ellis (advisor of the 2009 winning iGEM project E.chromi) and an interactive talk on synthetic biology and science communication from the BBC science presenter, Nature editor and Guardian writer, Dr. Adam Rutherford. The UK iGEM teams presented a poster and a 15 minute presentation about their project. This gave the members of each team the chance to practice their presentation skills before the European team meet up, as well as a chance for others to ask questions and see what other project routes the other teams have taken.

The event was also available LIVE on the internet via Google+ hangout, to allow the public and those that were unable to attend to still watch the presentations. Despite there being a few technical difficulties with the quality of the image, figures have shown that over 600 people watched the event.

Click here for programme PDF

Communicating with other iGEM teams

As part of our efforts to collaborate with the other iGEM teams this year we've made an effort to keep in contact with an array of iGEM teams. Here are some highlights:

- We communicated with all of the UK iGEM teams via Twitter, Email, Facebook and Google+ before, during and after the UK team meet up.

- We tweeted with many other iGEM teams from around the world and closely followed the iGEM community.

- We video called the St Andrews iGEM team via Google+ Hang-out to discuss our projects further as well as to seek advice about the arrangements for the UK team meet-up.

- Our advisor Richard Kelwick was interviewed by the Edinburgh iGEM team via Skype about our teams perspectives on public awareness and understanding of synthetic biology.

- We visited the Cambridge team near the beginning of our project and they were kind enough to give us a tour of their labs.

- Finally, the British Columbia team sent us a questionnaire about intellectual property that we happily filled out.

Public engagement

The Future of Science event held at The Forum, Norwich (Sunday 19th August)

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The Forum is located at the heart of the city of Norwich, and hosts a wide range of free events and exhibits to be enjoyed by the whole community. The venue is packed with restaurants, cafes and shops, as well as being home to Norwich library and BBC East Anglia.

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The NRPUEA iGEM team were fortunate enough to hold an interactive day at the Forum, giving the public a chance to engage within the world of synthetic biology. Before the date of the event, the team increased awareness via a range of techniques, including posters, leaflets and newspaper and internet adverts, including the Forums website. This resulted with a large turnout at the event, including the local press.

At the Future of Science event, the team presented a selection of informative posters, revealed their new film on a large screen, as well as showing examples of work carried out by the students during iGEM. For example, the public could view E.coli which had been transformed with GFP within a UV light box, as well as carrying out a counting colonies exercise. The NRPUEA team also created a range of synthetic biology educational material for the event, to inform the public of the concepts and terminology of synthetic biology. The different activities were designed to interest a selection of different ages. The educational resources include a range of quizzes and worksheets such as crosswords and matching exercises.

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For younger children we designed a colourful jigsaw plasmid (as seen in image). The idea of this activity was for the participants to choose jigsaw pieces that represented the genes that code for certain characteristics, such as green or red hair, and piece them together to form a complete plasmid. Once they had designed their plasmid they used a biscuit base, icing of different colours and various sweets to create a "biscuit creature" that corresponded to the plasmid they had created. The learning outcome of this activity was to give the children an understanding that a different selection of genes, results in different characteristics, and that editing the DNA can result in a change in the characteristics. The activity was very popular and most of the participants seemed to understand this concept, as well as having great fun.

The event attracted a range of ages, as well as mixed levels of previous interest into synthetic biology. It also became clear that many members of the public knew very little about synthetic biology, and therefore were very interested in finding out more about the new branch of biology and the iGEM competition. The NRPUEA iGEM team also took the opportunity to talk to the public and listen to their opinions about the work the iGEM teams are carrying out, which demonstrated how mixed the view of the public were. The day was a huge success.

Synthetic Biology activity sheets

Synthetic Biology Wordsearch,

Disney DNA Decoder,

Match The Word To Its Definition,

Music Artists & Films DNA Decoder

Creation of a futuristic company, Quanticare and production of a thought-provoking film

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As part of our human practices we decided to look into an artistic approach to bringing synthetic biology to a wider audience. As part of this we created "Quanticare", a fictitious and futuristic company forming on the back of a rise to prominence of synthetic biology over the next few years, as well as the results of our own projects on nitric oxide sensing and the comparator circuit. The fictitious company's latest development is to introduce a visual bio sensors in to the human body in the form of a tattoo-based health monitor, Cura.

Not only did the development of the fictitious company allow the team to explore potential future applications of synthetic biology and bio sensors, but also via the creation of a film , fuel a range of ethical questions. The team released the video on the day of the Wiki Freeze as well as bringing transferable tattoo samples of Cura to the European Jamboree as a form of marketing for the video and concept as a whole.

The team also produced a film with Amy Congdon exploring Cura itself and its many applications. They decided to angle the film as a product launch in order to capture the imagination and bring Quanticare and Cura to the public as a realistic future involving synthetic biology. The film is available to view below, we thank the Biochemical Society for their outreach grant to fund this film.

Please check out Quanticare page for more details!

Some initial feedback, the Quanticare video was launched less than 24 hours before the wiki freeze:

-Blogged about on Biochemical Society blog -On UEA news pages -Mentioned in tweet from the BBSRC -Many likes and tweets

-Some quotes

"Inspiring and Innovative" Global Strategist and Author @DeanneLawrence

"Great project. Good luck!" @SocratesLogos Synthetic Biologist

"Sooooooo cool!" Kimberley Hirst Jones UEA-JIC_Norwich iGEM 2011 team member

Social Media

The NRPUEA iGEM team has been VERY active on a range of social media over the summer.Any one is welcome to follow the team on Facebook or twitter. The team kept everyone updated on what was going on, both in the lab and in our spare time. This has been a great method of connecting with the public, companies,researchers, as well as getting in touch with other iGEM teams. The NRPUEA iGEM team believe human out reach via social media is important since it allows the public to follow the teams achievements and lab results, as well as providing an opportunity for members of the public to get to know the personality of the team members. The human stories behind science are crucial, informative and a powerful way to promote science in a positive light. Please follow us on twitter @NRPiGEM or UEA iGEM 2012 page on Facebook.


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File:TweetReach nrpigem.pdf


Creating social media pages also allowed us to access information about who was checking our page out, showing interesting information, showing that social media techniques such as facebook attracted mostly 18-24 years olds interest, and that it attracted no attention from those above 65. Therefore the team thought it was important to promote our project, not only through the internet, but also other techniques such as newspaper articles and radio shows.

The figure bellow shows the age ranges and gender of people who liked any posts from the NRP UEA iGEM team


Below is a list of the international locations that people liked our teams status updates from. This highlighted that whilst the majority of followers were located in Norwich, we also had followers from a range of places over the world, highlighting the importance of using such social media to reach these followers.

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As mentioned the NRP UEA iGEM team created facebook statuses and tweets very regularly and as the graph below shows, there was a consistent increase in action and interest in the NRPUEA iGEM team throughout the summer.

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We championed the use of Google+, a new social network from Google. We encouraged the UK iGEM teams to utilise Google+ to help make the 2012 UK team meetup as open and accessible as possible.

Media appearances

STAR Radio

STAR 107.9 FM's Farming Show


Listen To Our Radio Show Appearence!

In early July the team travelled to Cambridge to appear on STAR Radio's program: "The Farming Show". We were interviewed by Mark Peters (one of the presenters) about synthetic biology, iGEM and our project. The interview went really well as Pascoe and Khadija got across all of the information that was needed in a clear and concise way, and the presenter was extremely helpful in making sure all of the salient points of the project were brought out.

The team were able to give a brief description of what synthetic biology is before talking about the future applications of synthetic biology for medicine, agriculture and business. We were also able to mention our event at the Norwich Forum in late August in order to help promote it!

A big thanks goes out to all at STAR Radio 107.9 for their help with the project in setting up the interview and allowing us air time to discuss iGEM and synthetic biology. Please visit the link above to hear the radio show.

Newspapers & Internet Promotion


The team was featured on the UEA website throughout the summer including a press release regarding the entire project (Found Here) and a press release regarding the Quanticare/Cura future of synthetic biology video (Found Here). We are extremely grateful to the UEA Press Office for their help in publicising our project and the events/outreach material we have produced as part of it.

We have also been featured in two local newspapers; the Norwich Evening News (pictured left) and the Eastern Daily Press. This has allowed us to further engage the public with our work and help show the project to the local community. We hope that these articles have helped to promote synthetic biology and introduce it to members of the public who would otherwise have not heard about it. We thank the teams at both newspapers for covering the story of our project.

Further to this a UEA graduate, Daniel Vipond, has followed our project and iGEM as a whole in order to produce a report for his journalism career. It has been extremely exciting to be followed by a television camera throughout the last few weeks and hope Daniel does very well with the report!

Engagement with the wider scientific community

The team presented at the John Innes Centre Synthetic Biology conference


The John Innes Center (JIC) is a world leading center of plant research, the home of UEAs 2011 team, and part of the Norwich Research Park (NRP). Researchers at the JIC recognized that synthetic biology was an important field and therefore hosted a synthetic biology conference. The aim of the day was to enhance local researchers' knowledge of what synthetic biology is, and highlight projects in which synthetic biology is currently being used. When the team was invited to give a talk to the JIC researchers we were extremely excited. At the talk we gave an overview of what iGEM is, our project, how it developed over the summer and informing them about aspects of human practice. The team showed them a clip of the futuristic applications film. We enjoyed presenting our work and results, as well as having an opportunity to improve our presentation skills before the European jamboree. There seemed to be a real interest by the researchers in to our project, and the advice given was encouraging giving encouraging advice. The researchers also seemed very interested to hear more about our human practices elements of iGEM, wanting to know what we had discovered about the public's opinion our research. More than anything, researchers at the John Innes Centre couldn't believe that we were undergraduate students who had been working together for 10 weeks!

The NRP iGEM teams are helping to foster collaborations between scientists across the NRP and have begun to create a sense of community amongst NRP synthetic biologists.

SGM microbiology synthetic biology (September 3rd -5th)

The society of general microbiology held a 3 day synthetic biology conference at the University of Warwick. Three members of the UEA NRP iGEM team were lucky enough to go and enjoy talks on Streptococcus, molecular motors, and the dynamics of the genome and designer microbes. The event also gave the team member the opportunity to meet other synthetic biology scientists as well as informing them of the current advances in the field and inspiring them with the future possibilities. The event also allowed the team members to present a poster and therefore engage with the scientific community, both informing them more about the iGEM competition and our project . The team believed it was important for the scientists in the synthetic biology world to have the opportunity to meet undergraduate iGEM members, allowing them to express the skills it has allowed them to develop and to encourage further interest in to lab groups forming teams, and funding iGEM projects.

The Biochemical Society kindly mentioned us in their blog post

Not only did the Biochemical Society generously fund our project, they also were kind enough to feature our teams efforts in an encouraging ethical debate around the subject of synthetic biology (via our Quanticare video) in their blog.

Click here to view the blog post

This post was also seen by the BBSRC, who very kindly tweeted about it!