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Bioethics Overview

The University of Illinois Champaign Urbana 2010 iGEM team divided the bioethics project into two parts. First, we created and distributed a survey on the public’s knowledge and perception of synthetic biology. We then took the survey results and used them to customize our interactions with the public in order to better inform the community about synthetic biology.

A New Approach Towards Synthetic Biology Outreach

Check out our paper documenting this New Approach to Synthetic Biology Outreach! Media:UIUC-IllinoisHumanPractices.pdf

Video Documentation of Synthetic Biology Outreach

Video also found here!

Public Outreach

As the second part of our bioethics project, we participated in a number of public events to inform the general public about iGEM and synthetic biology. The results of our survey were useful to help us gauge our audience’s preconceived notions of synthetic biology. For example, from the results of the survey we realized that the public is exposed to a myriad of inaccurate representations of synthetic biology. We were able to counter these views and introduce a more accurate picture of the field during our interactions with the Champaign-Urbana community. Listed below are each of our public outreach events as well as upcoming and planned events.

Outreach Events:

Engineering Open House:

The College of Engineering at University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana puts on an annual Open House to allow the public and prospective students to get a glimpse of the college’s diverse programs and clubs. We set up a table with information on iGEM and synthetic biology as well as team project posters from previous years. Our display also included bacteria expressing genes for banana smell in addition to plates of bacteria displaying Cambridge’s E. Chromi biobricks from the 2009 competition. Overall, we had a great time discussing synthetic biology and iGEM with prospective students and members of the community.

UIUC EOH Meagan Steve.jpg

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Biology Open House:

Every year two clubs on the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana campus, L.I.G.A.S.E. (The Molecular and Cellular Biology Club) and The Illinois Biological Society, put together a Biology Open House. Attracting families and students alike, The open house consists generally of two parts geared towards different age groups. The first section is geared towards elementary school aged children and serves to get kids excited about science with activities like extracting DNA from strawberries. The second section is directed more towards older kids and adults and consists mostly of booths presenting more complex biology topics. For example, a past booth discussed genetic engineering how it affects daily life. As part of the latter section, We put together a poster with information on iGEM and synthetic biology. We also displayed plates of bacteria expressing Cambridge's E. Chromi biobricks in addition to cultures of bacteria expressing genes for banana smell.

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Science Olympiad National Tournament:

We had the opportunity to set up a display at the Majors Fair during the Science Olympiad National Tournament held on the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana campus May 21st. This provided us with the perfect opportunity to inform high school and middle school Science Olympiad team members and their families about synthetic biology and iGEM. It was exciting to generate interest amongst these young students and possible future iGEM participants!

G.A.M.E.S. (Girls Adventures in Math Engineering and Science) Camp:

During late July and early August we presented at G.A.M.E.S camp to high school and middle school girls interested in science, math and engineering. We put together a presentation available here with a basic introduction to synthetic biology and its applications as well as some information on iGEM. The presentation concluded with a paper plasmid lab (available here) to reinforce the value of recombinant DNA technology. It was rewarding to see the girls develop an interest in and understanding of synthetic biology.

For more information on G.A.M.E.S. camp, check out their website

iGEM Dots (A.K.A. Dippin'Dots) Sales:

As a fundraiser, we made our own version of Dippin’Dots and sold them on the university quad. This provided an excellent opportunity to inform the campus community about our team and synthetic biology.

Quad Day

The University of Illinois hosts an annual Quad Day which allows many of the University's registered student organizations to set up tables for information distribution and recruitment. We took advantage of this opportunity to put together a booth with background on synthetic biology and iGEM. This allowed us to generate interest in synthetic biology amongst many members of the campus community.

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UIUC Steve Quad Day.JPG


Upcoming Events:

Surrounded by Science: Parkland College TV program Today - Wednesday the 27th, we were filmed in lab and in a meeting with advisors by the host and videographer of Surrounded By Science! We expect this episode to come out in 2-3 weeks. It will be found on this page along with other information about the Surrounded by Science show. Surrounded By Science

Events in Planning Stage:

Parkland College Seminar:

Orpheum Children's Science Museum: