Our Educational Initiatives

‘You are trying to target one of the biggest barriers [in atherosclerosis treatment, detection, or prevention] and that is education and helping people to learn and embrace reducing their cardiovascular risk factors.’ - Dr. McNamara, Director of the Carter Immunology Center at the University of Virginia.

An important part of iGEM is educating the general public and communicating with others about synthetic biology and our project idea. As Dr. McNamara said in the second episode of our podcast, education about the disease to the public is one of the most important steps to detecting and treating atherosclerosis. Hence, we developed a series of educational activities that targeted a multitude of audiences from different backgrounds and age groups.


Overview of our Initiatives

An overview of all of our educational initiatives and the demographics we are targeting.


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)


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.

Story Book

Part of our Integrated Human Practices & Outreach efforts involved the creation of an interactive storybook targeting children ages 3-11. Our book The Adventure of Athena Shuffle and Her Search For Healthy Habits is the conglomerate of all of the preventative advice we’ve received from experts- nutrition advice, the importance of regular medical visits and cardiovascular health, etc. - formatted in a manner accessible to younger audiences. Our storybook takes children on an interactive journey and teaches readers crucial information on how to stay heart healthy, keeping children engaged through the incorporation of word searches, hidden pictures, coloring pages, and other fill-in tasks. In efforts to distribute our storybook, we took copies to the UVA Hospital to get approved, which will allow us to provide children with copies as they wait for their appointments.


Our Instagram account was created to share the progress of our project, connect with other iGEM teams, and post educational infographics about atherosclerosis, cardiovascular health, and synthetic biology. Our posts included an introduction to the team members, an introduction to atherosclerosis, and an overview of AtheroSHuffle. Through talking to Katherine Basbaum, a nutritionist, we learned the progress of atherosclerosis can be slowed through a diet packed with vegetables and protein, as this can prevent further plaque build-up. That means that in conjunction, we want the consumers of our device to also follow a healthy diet to prevent atherosclerosis development. Hence, we also used our Instagram account to share approved and tried recipes for our audience. These recipes were approved by Katherine Basbaum. Our instagram has given us an opportunity to reach larger audiences in our education efforts.
Here are some of our earlier educational infographic posts!

Two of our heart-healthy recipe videos and their respective viewcounts. Here is a link to our instagram containing these posts.

For more educational initiatives, read about our podcast, app demo, and Instagram on the Education and Communication page.