Communication and Spreading Awareness

The gap between science and the public must be narrowed if technological developments can truly serve society. While the goal of our project was to create a product that can be used by high-risk patients, we understand that other methods of prevention exist and a true solution must be multi-faceted. Therefore, major efforts went into communicating awareness of this project’s problem and our research.



One of the major issues with atherosclerosis and heart disease is the lack of clarity on the severity of these diseases and how one can prevent them. In order to emphasize prevention-based healthcare as a solution to the rising deaths from cardiovascular disease, our team created a podcast to explain the development, risk factors, current treatments, and prevention methods. Each episode has us interviewing an expert who works with atherosclerosis, and focuses on a specific topic. To keep the podcast engaging, we themed the podcast with a true-crime narrative. Our podcast is released on Spotify Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

[Episode 1] Define the Killer: What is Atherosclerosis?

Dr. Swapnil Sonkusare goes over the basics of atherosclerosis, and its connection with other diseases including diabetes.

[Episode 2] MO of the Killer: Risk Factors + Development

How does one become high-risk? Dr. Coleen McNamara covers major risk factors and how one can work with a doctor to identify them.

Listen to an episode of our podcast here!

[Episode 3] Outsmart the Killer: Nutrition + Exercise

How important is your nutrition? What does it mean to be heart healthy? Katherine Basbaum explains how she helps patients who are looking to decrease their cardiovascular risk through nutrition, and how a plan can be personalized.

[Episode 4] Capture and Arrest the Killer: Current methods of detection and treatment

What do you do if you are diagnosed? Dr. Amy Taylor goes over when medications or surgery may be needed. Dr. Zareen Farukhi further concludes with an overview of diagnosis and treatments.

[Episode 5] Special Partnership with IISER Pune II

What is iGEM and how has synthetic biology been used to solve other problems around the world? In this episode, we partner with IISER Pune II to learn about intriguing previous iGEM projects that creatively identified a problem important to them and sought to find a synthetic biology solution for it.


Through this summer and fall, our team had presented at two different conferences: Mid-Atlantic Meetup hosted by University of Maryland and University of Virginia's Summer Research Symposium. Public presentations are important to our team because they require us to formally present scientific information in an engaging way.
The Mid-Atlantic meeting allowed us to communicate our project to other iGEM teams and learn about theirs. These types of meetings are important since the premise of iGEM allows us to understand the processes of these projects and only focus on exploring the synthetic biology aspect. At the meetup, five iGEM teams presented and learnt from each other. Our presentation allowed us to educate our peers about atherosclerosis and the importance of cardiovascular health. Through mutual interests in synthetic biology, we fostered a community and established contacts for further opportunities. More information on the Mid-Atlantic Meetup is explained on the collaborations page.

UVA Summer Research Symposium

The University of Virginia's Summer Research Symposium was a research exhibition for our peers and graduate students. Our team presented a poster about our project and the synthetic biology behind it. As we interacted with other researchers, we explained the importance of atherosclerosis and the relevance of synthetic biology. We explained how atherosclerosis development is heavily dependent on the habits we make in our early years. Therefore, it is critical that we build heart healthy habits as college students to create a lifelong commitment to heart health. We raised awareness about our project and synthetic biology at our university because it is important that we get feedback from peers in research-based communities.

Virginia iGEM members presenting at the UVA Summer Research Symposium. (From left to right: Yilun Zhou, Miranda Khoury, Ivory Tang, Isha Patel)


To use the information gained from our human practices efforts, we created an app demo that can be later extended into a fully released app, which will promote awareness on atherosclerosis. The app demo and further details can be found on the implementation page.

This app allows us to interact with the general public by providing resources for them to decrease their risk factors, such as heart-healthy recipes in a cookbook and locating physicians and nutritionists in their area so they can seek guidance for their cardiovascular health. General information on the regular risk factors, detection methods, and current treatments were also explained in the app, influenced by interviews we conducted from the podcast.


Part of our collaboration with the Pune IISER 2 team included the creation of a blog on Wix. Our Let’s Science blog was created as a resource targeting high school students with the ultimate goal of raising awareness and excitement for the field of synthetic biology. As high school students interested in STEM, we often encountered scientific terms of which we would not know the definition. Our Let’s Science blog article aims to explain synthetic biology techniques while defining many common synthetic biology terms to encourage high school students to foster their interest in science. Our Let’s Science posts cover atherosclerosis, neglected tropical diseases (NGTs) with a focus on Dengue (IISER Pune II’s target disease), recent synthetic biology developments, information on the iGEM community, and creative projects that have come out of the competition. We tie this into our project as a synthetic biology educational tool in the context of our projects. We recognize that science is a community and therefore, we plan to create a feedback and discussion forum on the blog site for students to communicate with us and each other about these blogs.

The homepage of our blog with Team IISER Pune II with a view of the language toggle. Our website can be translated to different languages to improve accessibility worldwide. Examples are French, Hindi, and Spanish. Click here to read our blog posts!