Team:TU Darmstadt/Human Practice


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Human Practices

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While the iGEM team from Darmstadt has developed the project they quickly realized that the degradation of PET and the recovery of resources are a topic for the entire population. The question was how to inform the whole people, and how to reach them best. For this reason, the iGEM team decided to separate the people into five broad areas. To do so, the team has participated in events, which cover many areas of the society or they organized these events on themselves. At these events it became clear that Synthetic Biology was not a well known topic or was highly controversial discussed. The team took on the task of eliminating the misinformation and to discuss the impact and safety assessment.

The team has organized a student laboratory, in which the students themselves can experience Molecular Biology. Students should learn that DNA and proteins are ordinary tools of biologists. The students have seen, by what means organisms are changed and what safety standards prevail in an S1 laboratory. In a final discussion students could ask about synthetic biology.

A second important area in Germany is the elder generation. Demographic trends in Germany go on towards an elder society. Traditional and often conservative thinking restricts the development and especially the exploration of new technologies. For this reason, the iGEM team of Darmstadt took part in a senior session of chemists in order to elucidate the elder generations about the new technologies. Often, the elder one has to face with fear of things, they do not even know. The team has tried to take the fear and tried an open and honest talk about opportunities and risks of synthetic biology. The enthusiasm of the team was also well received by the elderly.

Another aspect is mainly the industry, because they are interested in most cases for new technologies. The iGEM team from Darmstadt got the opportunity to present their project to an economic audience at the ACHEMA. It attended quickly that the questions about the project were very different. Even at the ACHEMA the team had to made persuasions to the company and also informs about the new technology of synthetic biology. Risk management plays a special role, as the technology is in contact to the product and further with the consumer.

Another area in which it should be informed and discussed is the scientific field itself. The CAS Conference - Synthetic Biology offered a good place especially for discussion about pros and contras of Synthetic Biology. Here got the team from Darmstadt the opportunity to present their project to a consortium of scientists. Discussions quickly immersed themselves in tiny scientific details

Probably the most important section are people from everyday life. To achieve these people, the iGEM team had organized an interactive panel discussion. Here were the residents of Darmstadt informed about the project and of course biotechnology and also Synthetic Biology. Guests were able to actively participate in the discussion and remained a few hours even after the end. At the event day, that has been initiated by the eleven German iGEM teams in Berlin, the team was able to take part at an "Umweltbörse". This gave the team an excellent opportunity to address the people on the street to interest in the project. Since the project of the iGEM team dealing with environment and recycling, it fits well in this event day of the city of Darmstadt. It's a long way for synthetic biology to be accepted as normal technology in Germany. The iGEM team from Darmstadt played a small part in this issue but the following iGEM teams in Germany will also do so.

1. Junior

9th September 2012 Lab course with students from Highschool

To make not only the iGEM competition, but also the Synthetic Biology well known in the public awareness, the Darmstadt iGEM team decided to host a student internship. At the beginning of September came about 20 students of the Ludwig-George Highschool to the biology campus of the TU Darmstadt. In this laboratory course, students were able to transpose their theoretical knowledge of molecular biology techniques into practice. As molecular detectives their task was to analyze an unknown meat sample on its species. For this purpose, the students were allowed to purify mitochondrial DNA and perform a PCR for amplification of a specific mitochondrial gene. After a restriction digest and separation of the resulting fragments with agarosegel-electrophoresis the students were able to define the species of their samples. During the breaks, the iGEM team used the opportunity to present their project to the students and to discuss the importance of synthetic biology. The students were very receptive to the topic and immediately recognized that such issues playing no role in school and should be discussed more often. It was not only a new experience for the students, but also for the iGEM team to discuss ethic issues of Synthetic Biology and how the society could learn more about the opportunities which are given by that.

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We really enjoyed the day with the iGem Team. We learned a lot of new things, but we also repeated what we already knew from school. It helped a lot that we could do the experiments on our own, because in biology it is very difficult to understand experiments if you don´t see them in front of you. If we had questions, we could ask the iGEM team and they explained it very well. They also explained us the idea of the bacterium which is able to recycle plastic and the whole group liked the idea. Altogether it was a very interesting and informative day and it should be possible for every class to take part in something like this.

Selina Lerch and Anna-Lousia Stroh

The day with the iGem team realy helped me to understand the topics which we talked about in class theoretically. Because to see it and do it myself put it into a state of reality that made much more sense than a thing that you just talk about. It was very nice and interesting to do experiments in a real laboratory and to imagine being a biologist who wants to find the biological origin of an unknown sample. And generally to know that something like this is possible is fascinating. I would like to do something like this again and I would suggest to do it with my friends.

Venezia Renner

2. Senior

9th - 11th May 2012 4th Annual Meeting of Senior Experts of Chemistry (GDCh)

After the project of the iGEM team of TU Darmstadt stood firm and the beginning of lab work came up, the team had the opportunity to present their project to the elder people. The Society for German Chemists (GDCh) organizes every year a meeting of senior experts in chemistry. At this congress, the team could occur with three posters and convince the elderly from their project "Next Generation Recycling". The project met with great interest, and there were long discussions about costs and feasibility of it. It was not unusual that present chemists themselves were involved in the production of plastics or on the other hand developed new chemical-based recycling processes on it. Many did not know the way of seeing things with the view of biology yet and were surprised what opportunities this new view offered. The iGEM team quickly realized that it is not easy to convince a chemist from biology. It was easy to explain the degradation of the polymer with its chemical structure, but it is more difficult to explain genetics and even more the BioBrick system. Nonetheless was the presentation a huge success and they were able to convince the elder people of the idea. It was not only convincing the people for the project, but also the discussion about the new topic of Synthetic Biology, which is a contrary topic in Germany. It was important for the team to achieve not only one group of residents in Germany but as many as possible. For the team it was necessary to inform the people about new scientific technologies in a true and open way. Chemists, who are still working and dealing with the recycling of waste, came to the team and wanted to know, if the project could be extended to other substances. It turns out that the method of bioremediation is not used in its maximum manner and there are a lot more tasks outside to deal with. So the project of the iGEM team of Darmstadt is a hint into to the future and could soon find its application.

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3. Economy

18th - 22nd June 2012 Exhibition of our project at the ACHEMA

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) had invited the Hessian iGEM teams to the ACHEMA in Frankfurt. The ACHEMA is the largest exhibition on Chemical Engineering, Environmental Protection and Biotechnology and offered the teams a wide range of interested audience during the presentation of their projects. At the booth of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the teams of Darmstadt, Frankfurt und Marburg were able to present their projects. The Darmstadt team could not only inspire the audience with posters, but also with a presentation as well as many flyers for their project. Laymen, scientists and companies could be convinced by the project "Next Generation Recycling" of the Technical University of Darmstadt. The contact to the other iGEM teams from Hessia was of course promoted and it was possible to replace the content and progress of the projects. The project offers in the area of environmental protection many approaches, so it was not surprising that the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) was interested in the project. Members of the DBU stayed a long time for intensive discussions at the booth. To conclude, the ACHEMA offered the team an exciting platform on which they could perform a "reality check" of their project. The interesting discussions with members of economy and science showed them the deep meaning of their project and point out that the iGEM Team of Darmstadt is on a good path.

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28th June 2012 3rd Annual Meeting of Strategic Process Biotechnology 2020+

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) had invited all German iGEM teams to the 3rd Annual Meeting of Strategic Process Biotechnology 2020+ to participate. The German teams had the opportunity to see each other for the first time. The conference was attended by representatives from academia, industry and other research institutes. The aim of the conference was to generate new interdisciplinary cooperation that give rise to new ways in the field of biotechnology in Germany. The iGEM teams occurred as proponents of new minds and ideas of the future. Representatives of the iGEM team of Darmstadt had to meet economic and scientific questions from the audience about their project. At a panel discussion it became clear that the conscious use of resources and especially the recovery of these in Germany have to play an important role in the future. The Darmstadt iGEM team became clear that their project had met the ravages of time. Apart from the other projects the teams were able to provide an overview of the development of biotechnology in Germany. It was was clear that as well as the Red and White Biotechnology has precedence the furthest in the development. New technologies such as Systems Biology and particularly Synthetic Biology were observed more critically. Here the iGEM teams were aware that it applies to the next scientific generation to discuss topics like synthetic biology in an open and honest way and especially integrate the people. For this reason the German iGEM teams have pronounced an event day on 25th of August. All German teams in common should try to inform the people about their projects and also synthetic biology. It is up to the young scientists to inform about new technologies and to reflect them so that they can be explored and used in Germany.

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4. Science

23rd - 25th July 2012 CAS Conference - Synthetic Biology

The Center for Advanced Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich organized a conference for Synthetic Biology on the campus Martinsried. On this occasion not only top researchers from around the world were invited, but also the German, British and Dutch iGEM teams. The iGEM team from the Technical University of Darmstadt was able to present their project "Next Generation Recycling" to scientific audience. Furthermore, it was a reunion of the German iGEM teams which met on the 3rd Annual Meeting of Strategic Process Biotechnology 2020+ in Berlin. At the congress the teams could discuss their projects and also the challenges they were faced during the lab work. The presentations provided insights in the latest research in Synthetic Biology and its application. At the end Jay Keasling, a famous representatives of the Synthetic Biology, talked about his urgent research projects. The CAS Conference gives the iGEM teams the occasion to learn about the other teams outside of the iGEM Jamboree. Special thanks for the LMU Munich iGEM team for their great organization of the evening with all the other teams.

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5. General Public

3rd July 2012 Interactive Panel Discussion

To inform the residents of Darmstadt about the iGEM project of the Technical University, the team had organized an interactive panel discussion. The event took place in the State Theatre of Darmstadt. Experts in the topic of biotechnology were invited from the field of science and industry. The iGEM team from Darmstadt could get Dr. Maurer for the panel discussion, who had worked 25 years for Henkel and became new Director of Business Development of AB Enzymes. Prof. Dingermann from the Goethe University in Frankfurt took part as a scientific representative for the red biotechnology. Prof. Warzecha of the TU Darmstadt was proponent as Instructor of the iGEM team as well as a representative of the green biotechnology. For the ethical and moral issues in the field of biotechnology, the team from Darmstadt got Prof. Nordmann, who deals with the philosophy of Synthetic Biology. At the beginning of the event, Prof. Warzecha conducted a presentation on biotechnology. He gave the audience a short overview of biotechnology and its applications in today's world. He spoke to the fears of the people and tried to clarify them. This was followed by the presentation of the project of the iGEM team by Arne Wehling. Afterwards was a "get-together", in which the audience could talk to speaker and members of the iGEM team. The audience had the opportunity to write down questions on flipcharts that should be answered in the upcoming panel discussion. In the subsequent discussion were the issues of the flipcharts discussed with the audience and the experts. The panel was moderated by Henrik Cordes, who also brought in the discussion as a representative of the team. The event officially ended after three hours, but enough guests remained until late in the evening with the experts and students to discuss about the pro and contra of biotechnology and also Synthetic Biology. It was a good step of the iGEM team of Darmstadt to organize this interactive panel discussion, as it allowed reaching the people. The event shown young scientist, which concerns prevail in the human and which misinformation need to be clarify.

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25th August 2012 "Umweltbörse Darmstadt"

At the 3rd Anual Meeting of Strategic Process Biotechnology 2020+ the eleven German iGEM teams agreed to a common event throughout Germany on Synthetic Biology. This took place on 25th August in the respective cities. The TU Darmstadt iGEM team was particularly lucky, because at this time the environmental agency of the city of Darmstadt organized an environmental event on the Ludwigs Platz in the heart of Darmstadt. This meant that the iGEM team got the opportunity to explain their project to people from small to large in more detail. This was a great chance to bring the Synthetic Biology more closely to the general public. The project got positive response by the residents of Darmstadt and pushed and inspired even more the young scientists.

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