In the beginning of the competition we were really keen to meet other iGEMers and share with them our experience regarding the competition. As few of the members of iGEM Thessaloniki are from Crete and as our team is based here, some of our team’s members had the beautiful chance to meet on a rainy afternoon early in April. We enjoyed this first contact very much, as we exchanged opinions on a variety of matters, including our source inspiration to apply in the competition! Besides that we had long conversations about our projects and our ambitions! Additionally, each team prepared a survey for the project, which the other team filled in, in order to exchange feedback, which we then shared and talked about.

After that first meeting, we could not wait to get to know all the members of iGEM Thessaloniki. So we arranged a second online meeting as soon as possible! This time, we had fun by playing games and presenting our projects to the rest of the members of each team. That meeting left us with feelings of respect, co-understanding and mutual appreciation. Thus we took the initiative and recommended a movie night!

Our suggestion was to watch the movie "Platform" together, as we had previously completed the brainstorming process and knew we were concentrating on a project linked to malnutrition. We were very excited to proceed to a further discussion with iGEM Thessaloniki about the matters that the movie addressed, such as the inequity of opportunities that affect developing countries, which were of a major concern for both teams after watching this movie. Availability of food, as well as access to proper healthcare will create the opportunity of surviving and even thriving, despite the imminent fatal diseases and the food crisis.

That’s what we wanted to achieve. We came to see the significance of our partnership in promoting fair access to commodities of all types around the world as a result of this conversation. This motivated us to move on to a meaningful and long lasting partnership.

Exploring the basis of our concern

Wanting to validate our concerns about the distressing situation in the bioethics field, we conducted a social media survey with the headline "Bioethics in STEM". Unfortunately, by reviewing the statistics of the surveys that we published we came to a disappointing realization. The lack of awareness of young future scientists on the issues in “Bioethics in STEM’’ was tremendously concerning! As the pie chart suggests, every single one of the future scientists believe that a bioethics course is urgent for the natural science departments of our university. The findings provided inspiration for numerous of our common activities!

Human Practices

As aforementioned, the current situation in the bioethics field strongly concerned both parties. We contacted professor of Modern and Newer Philosophy and Bioethics, Ms. Tsinorema, in order to arrange an integrated Human Practices meeting. She provided us with insights on the ethical aspect of our projects throughout the meeting. In addition, we went into great detail regarding the information that both scientists and non-scientists know about the significance of bioethical applications and how these applications are directly connected with our foundational Human Right of Freedom!

So, in order to spread the knowledge we gained from this wonderful session, we created a booklet. We also provided a list of ideas that we believed may be used in schools to promote awareness from a young age. Our intention was to spread the idea that bioethics are directly linked to individual freedom and that they are a fundamental component of science. We wanted to go even further with the facts we learned from Ms. Tsinorema since they surprised us so deeply. So, in order to gain feedback on our projects, their potential applications, as well as the suggestions we included in our booklet, we wrote to the bioethics committee of Aristotle University institution. Additionally, we intended to implement one of our aforementioned ideas to demonstrate to the world that doing so may truly raise awareness of the bioethical component of research. Thus we organized an online debate with the title: "Should the rich buy the best genes?", which we uploaded to our Youtube Channels.

Through this discussion, we wanted to acknowledge that all theories in science must be carefully examined, but also to demonstrate that, in addition to scientific progress and the achievement of accurate results, the application of bioethical limitations in a clear and consistent manner is also crucial.

Bioethics Booklet

Troubleshooting on a Human Practices Level

We believed that exchanging thoughts and opinions at the level of human practices would be crucial to achieving a better and more fulfilling partnership. So when our teams met again at the Aegean meeting we had some troubleshooting sessions in order to speed problem-solving and improve communication about our initiatives across all social groups. After endless conversations, we suggested iGEM Thessaloniki to participate in the “Researcher’s Night” event, which they finally did!

They also shared with us their ideas, and gave us their feedback. After listening to our concerns about how to familiarize small, isolated communities with our project they advised us to first contact the president of such small communities. This was an excellent idea as the world will easier trust someone that they admire. We contacted the president of Kallithea Kalambakas directly and had a constructive conversation on how he could help us inform his community.

Wet Lab

  • Competent E.colicells: In one of our frequent calls, iGEM Thessaloniki informed us that they were facing problems making chemically competent E. coli cells that they needed for some of their Interlab experiments. Due to the nature of our project, it was essential to make competent E. coli cells, and we were more than happy to provide iGEM Thessaloniki with the protocol that we used.
  • Midori Green: iGEM Thessaloniki, during one of our weekly meetings, shared with us the problem they faced with the lack of space. This fact couldn’t let them dedicate a bench for ethidium bromide use. After a lot of discussions, we advised them to use Midori Green instead of ethidium bromide, which is a substance that is less dangerous, and in this way, the risks were minimized.
  • iGEM Distribution Kit: During the progress of our project, we faced some issues with receiving the 2022 iGEM Distribution Kit, and it was eventually sent back to iGEM HQ. This was a major obstacle in the development of our project, and we decided to use a part included in the previous year’s kit. After some trials, we ended up in the conclusion that the DNA included in the kit was not preserved right. So iGEM Thessaloniki sent us their previous year distribution kit and in this way, we had an alternative option in the situation where the tries with our kit failed.
  • Troubleshooting: Throughout the whole duration of our partnership with iGEM Thessaloniki, we were in constant contact and continuously discussed our project’s progress. Like the majority of iGEM teams, we too faced obstacles in both the experimental procedures and also in the other aspects of the competition. Furthermore, in the case of the experimental procedures we both exchanged insights and empirical knowledge for protocols that we may have used (e.g. incubation times, reaction temperatures etc.). Lastly we helped each other in the explanation and review of both of our team's results.

Fund Raising

Since both teams are supported by sponsors, we had to locate companies that wish to assist our ambitions. We assisted one another to contact several sponsors in an effort to gain extra funding. This worked well for us, since a few businesses supported both of our teams. Additionally, after a few fundraising sessions we ended up with a common sponsor approaching plan that included different sponsorship packages. Initially we presented our project to our potential sponsors and then we informed them via email about our sponsorship packages that vary according to the amount of funding.

Last but not least, members of our fundraising team joined forces in this year’s TIF and contacted both local and international sponsors!

Dry Lab

Troubleshooting sessions were held by the wiki developers from both teams while they were in constant communication. Igem Thessaloniki put their home page design concept into practice with the guidance and assistance of our Dry Lab team. The layout and technical aspects of each wiki article were heavily debated. We looked at each other's wikis after they had been published and provided aesthetic criticism.