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Human Practices: Synthetic biology in Poland

A bit of history

Since we took part in iGEM competition for the first time three years ago, we are still the only team from Poland. In our country, synthetic biology is a slowly developing area. However, a remarkable change in this field can be seen nowadays. In many Polish scientific institutions and universities terms “bioengineering” and “synthetic biology” are commonly used and it became popular in high schools to talk about biotechnology. Still low interest in this area seems to be strange, considering the precursor of “synthetic biology” term, Polish geneticist, prof. Wacław Szybalski. There are more and more lectures introducing people to the area of synthetic biology, but still not enough. Furthermore, our goal is to spread the knowledge about synthetic biology in Poland, that’s why we came up with the idea of the human practices project concerning it.

About iGEM competition and our team - lectures for university students

To spread the idea of iGEM competition among students, doctors and professors we prepared a set of presentations about synthetic biology and started a debate on this topic. The beginnings were difficult. Just a few students came on our first presentation, but later on our speeches became popular and we had more and more listeners. When we asked who is interested in joining our team this year and being prepared to give up their holiday plans, about 30 students were interested in. We decided to make an exam in English about genetic, synthetic biology, iGEM competition and our last year achievements. The results were satisfying. Most of the answers indicated that the majority of students understood the idea of the competition and assumptions of synthetic biology. In the end we chose 8 new students and opened the doors for them to the beautiful world of creative biology.

About synthetic biology and iGEM - Presentations for high school students

Since synthetic biology is still developing, we need to count on the next generation to continue our work. We decided to visit some high schools and share with them our enthusiasm:) How did it look like?

1. They filled in the a questionnaire You can see below

2. After the questionnaire, we started our presentation and about history, applications and assumptions of synthetic biology, the idea of iGEM competition and science 2.0. using presentation prepared for that occasion.
Special thanks go to Dr. Andrew L. Nelson who allowed us to use his amazing Robot Artworks! (see more on There are some slides from our presentation:

You can see all of it by clicking here - unfortunately it's in polish. Still, please enjoy it!

3. After our presentation we gave them the same questionnaire to compare the results.

What is important: We hadn't warned them, so they couldn't expect it!


Nearly every student could tell or guess what biochemistry and molecular biology is about. After our speech a number of good answers slightly increased. None of the high school students had an idea what systems biology is and only few of them heard about synthetic biology before our presentation. The questionnaire showed that the difference between wrong and correct answers before and after the presentation was remarkable.

A great number of students could tell what GMO stands for, unfortunately most of them belive that it only concerns plants. However when we asked them if genetic engineering and modifications of living organisms (plants or ANIMALS) are against their belifes, about 80% agreed that "it is a necessity to expand our knowledge to make our world a better place to live".

Our younger listeners got interested in iGEM project. They quickly understood what restriction enzymes are and how to create a new biobrick in laboratory. They are also welcome to join our team next year. It shows that lecturing younger people is beneficial.

That is why we decided to continue our human practices next year. We want to visit many other schools, not only in Warsaw. Our main goal is to pass down the passion to the younger generation!

The process of international socialization

We had a great opportunity to face another approach to science. Our team is involved in sociological research conducted by Izabela Wagner, Ph. D. from the Institute of Sociology at University of Warsaw. Dr Wagner is investigating the process of international socialization of biologists - how they get involved in the world of international science.