iGEM Groningen 2010

pushing coatings into a greener future


We have made an effort to reach out to the public in order to increase awareness about synthetic biology because we noticed, whilst talking to family and friends about our project, that the general public knows little about the subject. Often discussions concerning genetic engineering are lead by fear and gut feelings. To us it appears as if lack of biological knowledge causes participants in debates to stray from what actually matters: having fruitful discussions about the ups and downs of biotechnological advances and realizing its enormous potential.

It can be really easy for scientists to lose view of society when their research is no longer easily explicable in layman terms thus causing a fissure between science and general society. In our view this problem can be solved by education and transparency. Scientist should make it their duty to open up and try to actively invite the general public to engage in dialog. In line with this view one of our team members has visited high school biology classes to present our project and tell students about iGEM.


“It was a lot of fun visiting the schools and teaching those kids. In the beginning they were quite noisy but they turned out to be intrigued by synthetic biology and listened quietly.” - Maarten

In addition to presenting iGEM and our work at highschools, we actively participated in a "Masterclass" organized by the university's outreach programme, ScienceLinx and Martijn Herber (iGEM Groningen '08) of the Molecular Genetics group. Now the highschool students came to the university, to our lab in fact, and in an afternoon we taught them about how we're related at the level of cellular building blocks to all other life. Even tomatoes! The specific example shown was Topoisomerase II, a highly conserved and essential protein involved in "working out the kinks" that get wound up in DNA when cells replicate. The students also got to experience what "life in the lab" is like and a whirlwind tour of the molecular techniques used. The students were really excited about synthetic biology and who knows, perhaps next year we'll see the first Dutch highschool iGEM-team!


After the master class we moved on to the Kenniscafé (Knowledge Cafe) which is a monthly event organized by the University of Groningen and which is meant to get the public acquainted with current research within the natural sciences at the University of Groningen.


This month’s issue was appropriately dedicated to synthetic biology and one of our team members was invited as a guest speaker along with professor Oscar Kuipers, head of the department of Molecular Genetics and main advisor of the iGEM Groningen team.


The third guest speaker was Sjoerd van der Meulen an iGEM Groningen 2008 team member and employee of Bioclear, a company which provides biological solutions for soil, energy and environment.