Education & Communication
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” -Benjamin Franklin
Scientists and engineers can achieve wonders, yet without major public support and understanding, these wonders can critically fall short of achieving their full potential. That is why we wanted to engage different sections of the general public with specially crafted ways to maximise thought provoking and pedagogic experiences to communicate the key inspiration points of our project: Energy efficiency, the use of synthetic biology in different fields and combating the negative public opinion about synthetic biology products.
High School Lab Immersion
Every year, EPFL organises an immersion week for high school students from Bern who have taken an optional STEM course. During the week, the students had the opportunity to follow presentations as well as workshops and hands-on activities in all sections of the school. We had the opportunity to represent the Life Sciences Engineering department and introduce them to synthetic biology.
During this event, first we gave an introduction on synthetic biology, we explained to them what iGEM is and presented our project. We then proceeded to explain the details and protocol of an experiment in order to stimulate their interest and curiosity. The students were the ones who performed the experiment, while we supervised, helped and went more and more in the theoretical detail during the various steps of the experiment.
MUN - Swiss Parliamentary Debate
In accordance with our theme of bringing different worlds together, we decided to utilise an unconventional and relatively unexplored method of science communication for iGEM: Model United Nations (MUN). MUN allowed us to tap into the views and thoughts of university students and future policy makers in Switzerland from different backgrounds, in a structured and already optimised way. In collaboration with the MUN EPFL society, we organised a simplified mini-MUN session as a focus group to simulate the Environment, Spatial Planning And Energy Committees (ESPEC) of the Swiss Federal Assembly. The task at hand was to:
- Shape the Swiss response to the upcoming energy crisis
- Determine a parliamentary opinion on the current GMO regulations in Switzerland and how the application of synthetic biology to other fields would require new regulations.
Our external participants were eleven university students from different universities with ample MUN experience, yet with no synthetic biology background. Our team members chaired the committee sessions, and acted as on-demand synthetic biology experts for the aspiring policy makers. Unlike the usual MUN setting, the parliamentarians were asked to present and defend their own opinions. They were given a study guide to introduce them to iGEM and the chosen topics. Special attention was given to keep the study guide brief to avoid directing the opinions of the parliamentarians.
The focus group saw lively and engaging debates on the topics of energy management and synthetic biology. with one parliamentarian even pointing out “I have never thought about these before, the expanse of this topic actually humbled me”. The parliamentarians focused on energy consumption reduction and a promotion of scientific research for synthetic biology, with a Swiss cautionary approach. The concrete results of the debates were materialised in two documents acting as opinion papers from the Federal Assembly, and written in the MUN resolution format.Click here to read more about our Human Practices
HESTIA Stand in EPFL Esplanade
While engaging different parts of the public with well defined and delimited groups with a premeditated design may work wonders on an individual level, it lacks in the scope of engagement. We decided to organise a stand in the central square of the EPFL campus, Esplanade, to widen the size of our audience while still keeping the critical human-to-human connection.
This stand will feature items and brochures to interactively stimulate thought and awareness about synthetic biology and energy consumption and strategies in the minds of the EPFL community. The stand event will take place after the wiki freeze, as iGEM never ends with the wiki freeze!
iGEM EPFL Recruitment Session
One needs to prepare for the future ahead of time! We will be organising the recruitment session for the iGEM EPFL team for the year 2023 on the 9 November. We will be introducing the multidisciplinary student pool of EPFL into the rich and enticing world of Synthetic Biology, and tell how iGEM can be a very useful opportunity to learn and improve oneself and others.
Both our team and representatives from past teams will be presenting their projects, and show students how synthetic biology can be applied for a vast set of problems. We will be aiming for a diverse and committed team to carry on the legacy of iGEM EPFL in accordance with the iGEM values and spirit.
Swiss Synbio Meet-up
Together with the iGEM teams from UNIL and UZurich, we organised the Swiss Synbio Meet-Up at the University of Zürich on September 23, 2022. To bring more visibility to synthetic biology in Switzerland, we presented iGEM and explained the tools and applications that constitute synthetic biology. We then gave three concrete examples through our respective projects, in front of an academic audience, but not yet familiar with synthetic biology. Finally, the event was followed by an aperitif and a team booth to interact with the participants and get to know the other iGEM teams. It was an excellent experience, both because of the contact with the public, the meeting of the other Swiss iGEM teams, but also because it was preparation for the looming Grand Jamboree!
LinkedIn Alumni Group
To strengthen the link between past and present EPFL iGEM teams, we have decided to create a LinkedIn Alumni group. Our aim is to encourage a better transmission of information and opportunities during each team’s project. We hope to create a strong culture and a real community which could develop outside of iGEM and help the participating students to develop a network in the industry.
Our extensive research allowed us to find every member from each EPFL iGEM team since its creation. Our group already has 40 members, and we hope to have the entire EPFL iGEM community present by the end of the year. We additionally presented our project, asked for feedback, and took into account their advice when posting on the group.
We hope that the future EPFL iGEM teams will continue to use this group as a resource and will benefit from the experienced individuals that we have gathered there.
Münster JuniorJam iGEM Meetup
It is paramount that iGEMers also educate themselves and each other. iGEM Meetups are excellent in this regard, instilling a notion of collaboration and exchange of ideas. We headed to the JuniorJam iGEM Meetup organised by iGEM Münster and interacted with many European iGEM teams.
While educating ourselves on the problems other iGEM teams were trying to solve, we engaged our fellow iGEMers to think about energy consumption and energy efficiency. We had them play a little game where the player had to rank the thermal insulation efficiency of 5 different insulation materials, from the best to the worst, only by looking at and touching the materials. We also won the Best Presentation Award and the Best Stand Award in the JuniorJam!
Our team members Casimir, Élodie, Pauline, Charlotte, Bettina and Lola participated in the Microethics Workshop of EPFL, led by Siara Isaac, that aimed to make us realise that our actions have an impact on our surroundings, both locally but also globally. We took the IAT test, which helped us become conscious of our biases. We talked about the human tendency for automatic decision making (fast-thinking), where unintentional biases can easily arise. In one sentence: “Step back to slow down” when making decisions!