Revision as of 19:49, 25 October 2010 by MJvdN (Talk | contribs)


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

After presenting at high schools we invited schools to send students to attend a master class in which they could get to experience what it is like working at university as a researcher. Furthermore we wanted to show them all life on earth is build up out of the same basic parts and that we still share a lot of genes with organisms as different to us as tomatoes. We illustrated this with the example of topoisomerase II which is present in both man and tomato and is a very essential and highly conserved protein.


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.