Team:Queens Canada/SynthetiQ/how


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This is our methods section. This page will highlight some of the key points that brought our project together.


The initial inspiration for this project came from two main things:
  1. John Bohnanon's talk TEDxBrussels:
    • This was a brilliant demonstration and proposal of the idea of using dance to explain and teach scientific concepts.
  2. Emma Ware winning the social sciences category of the 2011 Dance Your PhD Contest:
    • Emma was a PhD student with Department of Psychology, and fellow dancer. After finding out about this news shortly after watching John Bohannon's talk. DYPhD and the idea of using dance to demonstrate science felt a lot closer to home.


Here are a few key reasons why this idea might sound appealing to a dancer, or anyone:
  • It's a unique opportunity and experience
  • International exposure
  • This is the perfect research setting (Would any professional level conference really find this appropriate and/or worth the effort?)
  • Synbio research is awesome.
  • Why not?

The Summer

The summer work started by contacting a number of different dancers, or others involved with dance about this idea. Initially, there was very little response. This could have been for a number of reasons:

  • No one actually thought this was a good idea
  • Everyone was out of town for the summer or busy
  • We weren't promoting this properly

Had we started contacting people before the summer started, we might have had better results.

  1. John Bohannon:
    There were few things that Dr. Bohannon suggested.
    • Find a dancer that knows people in the dance community and will be able to lead the project. Maybe even hire this person as an artist in residence.
    • Make it fun, hilarious and incorporate other dance styles.
    • University campuses are crawling with dancers.
  2. Melissa Wilton:
    Melissa gave us lots of advice on the logistics of putting together a routine for our presentation as well as recruitment. Her involvement and interest was very inspirational and her connections helped us with the recruitment of our dance team. Her support lead us to our article in the Kingston EMC.


Over the rest of the summer, we worked on just doing some general bodystorm, which lead to our DNA model. And, we gathered everyone together to make our video about PCR. Even though we filmed this around the end of July, and intended to release it shortly after. We ended up spending pretty much all of our time trying to get our lab work to actually work. But, we were hoping to get more content in the video and talk specifically about amplifying DNA out of a genome. In the end, the video was finished and uploaded during the week of the wiki-freeze.


September rolled around way faster than we had hoped, and our lab stuff wasn't going very well at all either. However, with the publicity from our article in the Kingston EMC and the return of Queen's students for the school semester, we made another recruitment push.

We got in touch with the Queen's Dance Club, who passed our information to their group of teachers. In the first week of September, our first meetings were with Devon Ryan, who became our choreographer and Sam Demetrious, who became a dancer on our team. So we quickly put together a draft of our script, which only really talked about some of the foundation of our project (because we didn't have any results yet), and we worked together on how we could actually make this into a dance. Now that all the students have returned to Queen's, Devon and Sam were able help us with recruitment.

Next, we started practicing as a group.

Logistics and the Regional Jamboree

Naturally, research conferences in general are not designed to accommodate dance routines, and some lecture halls, particularly in the sciences, have large, fixed tables at the front of the rooms for running demos. There is also travel and accommodations to look after.

  1. Travel
    • Because we were bringing so many people to the iGEM Jamboree, transportation was a bit challenging and this was probably the largest additional cost. We had considered paying to rent a bus, that would travel with all of the iGEM teams from Ontario, and split the cost. This started out as a really great idea, and an awesome way to meet our neighboring teams, but this didn't end up working out. Possibly because it was a little too close to the competition when we started planning this. In the end, we decided to opt for rental cars but, we were short on drivers. So we asked a few friends, rented 3 vans and made it to the jamboree. And, we only got a little bit lost.
  2. Accommodations
    • Accommodations was the second additional cost. We ended up renting one extra room to accommodate our entire team and dancers, which was only one more than what we would have done normally. We probably could have saved money by renting at a cheaper hotel nearby but we stuck with the iGEM rate at the Pittsburgh Marriott and kept our entire group together.
  3. Presentation Space
    • And this was probably the biggest challenge. Leading up to the competition, it was really important that we get as much information as we could about what sort of presentation space we would be using for the actual presentation. Initially we had a lot of help from the Americas East Regional Jamboree organizer, Sarah Clements from IBE. However, simply because of the way that the schedule is made, and the timing of things leading up to it, we ended up being scheduled in a room that had large, unmovable, demo table in the front of it. After finding out our placement, we went there first thing in the morning to look at it. After some last minute switches, we ended up being shifted to a space which had a movable table, and we were able to perform. So special thanks goes out to Sarah and Meagan Lizarazo for helping us arrange this.

After the Jamboree

We won the Best Model award! This was an amazing achievement for our team, and the first time that we have won an individual award. Originally, this project was more aimed at human practices. However, the explanation for why this was an excellent modelling project made perfect sense. This project, and its website, initially had very little documentation attached to it, with virtually no feedback, or detailed content. Ideally, we would have liked to really get this going, and possibly even do some testing to see whether or not people retained information better from the dance compared to a pure powerpoint presentation. There is so much potential to do some really creative outreach and get more people involved. But, we'll have to leave this for the future. For now, we are working on perfecting our routine and making a few additions based on some feedback after the regionals and a little bit of content we wanted to add here and there.

At the finals!

In this second presentation, many of the logistics and aspects of the presentation went much more smoothly now that we'd had a bit more experience. The weekend was wonderful for both our dancers and iGEMers and we got a lot of excellent feedback on our presentation. Next, we'll be waiting for our video footage from iGEM so that we can share our presentation with everyone!