Synthetic biology promises innovation implying not mere invention but actual translation into industry and society. To maximize the social impact of our endeavour, we took our project out of the lab and onto the streets. Talking to as many people as possible helped us in clarifying which hopes and concerns our neighbours see in our research and what requirements for the filter are expected. Among other things, we collaborated closely with the Berlin water suppliers, we pitched our project on various occasions and organized a interdisciplinary Science Café event.

SciArt Café
Berlin is a colourful and creative place. It is a focal point for the international techno-science art community with venues such as the transmediale, the CTM, the STATE festival, re:publica and many more. Including this vibrant biotech-philiac community was a must-have for iGEM Berlin. For this we organized a Science Café event - the SciArt Café - bringing together synthetic biologists, bio-artists, biohackers and anthropologists in one unique format.

Having an open format such as the Scienc Café makes space for in-depth discussions. After listening to four speakers a heated and emotional discussion took place and focused on re-emerging issues such as dual-use, biosecurity, patents, corporate ethics and the relevance of the scientific methods for arts.

The event was held in the heart of Berlin (Betahouse – Coworking space in Kreuzberg) on August 7 2015 and organized in collaboration with Biofaction. Four presentations from different fields, including the iGEM Berlin Enzymatic Flagellulose, xenobiology, sculpturing with slime moulds and behavioral primate sciences/anthropology madethis event a very special one.
We showed and discussed our projects with a language easy for a non-scientific audience to comprehend. We focused on addressing the issue of microplastics and the alarming threat that they represent to human health. Additionally, we talked about how genetic engineering help us be more efficient and generate either enzymes, proteins or products that are usually difficult to access and produce. We made a clear emphasis on the importance of good scientific practices when it comes to handling genetically modified organisms. Although the audience have heard about them before, some points needed to be clarified for the public to understand that in our proceedings there is no threat to either biodiversity, environment or human health.

Moreover, we talked about how important it is to remain “inter- or transdisciplinary” in science. By presenting the different members of our team and their diverse academic backgrounds we stressed the fact that solution can only be achieved through collaboration from different fields.

The audience was very happy to obtain first hand information from researchers working on topics that concern the society and the government. The main feedback from the audience focused on how good it is to make science accessible to the public and how important it is to explain complex methods in a visual way.

Our participation definitely clarified some points and misunderstandings. he audience asked in detail about the degradation of plastics and the products that are resulting of this process. This allowed us to pitch our idea of a modular filter unit in detail. The public was invited to visit the lab anytime and also to help us in anyway from web designing to fund raising.

Lange Nacht der Wissenschaft
The "Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften (LNdW)" stands for the Long Night of the Sciences in English and has been taking place for 15 years in Berlin and Potsdam. It is also called the smartest night of the year due to its scientific and breakthrough character taking place yearly. A diverse program, comprising hundreds of exhibitiors, offers thousands of visitors the opportunity get exciting insights into the scenery of sciences, and research. Visitors are invited to participate in fascinating experiments, as well as to exchange the latest research findings in various fields. The LNdW not only enables exchange of information and knowledge between experts, but also between experts and people without any prior knowledge. The range of the topics, thereby, is as broad and varied as our world: Be it ancient studies or modern technologies, languages, natural sciences, music, or medicine and health, everyone will find something that takes their fancy.

We took part in the LNdW this year and presented our project Enzymatic Flagellulose , its aims and findings, to the audience visiting the chemistry faculty in the campus of the Technical University Berlin. Visitors, from all ages, including complete families and friends had the opportunity to see our lab and perform easy experiments while guided by our students. We presented a very clear workflow highlighting the problem and our steps to solve it. Our participation in the LNdW allowed us to draw attention to both the iGEM competition in general and to the problematic issue about microplastics. We could entrust many people to be more conscious about microplastics and take better care of its consumption and disposal, and in turn, reduce the contamination of our environment. At the same time we established contact for subject-specific questions and we thrilled many high school and university students to participate in the iGEM competition next year. Furthermore, we received positive feedback from our visitors and they encouraged us in our aims and optimization of our idea. It was very important for us to take the non-scientific audience to the lab so the general public gets the feeling that scientists have a transparent and open mind, willing to communicate and share. This event pretty much relates and adds value to the “Science Café”, where we took the lab and the scientists to the people. We are already looking forward to LNdW 2016!

Berliner Wasserbetriebe
We visited the “Berliner Wasserbetriebe” (wastewater treatment plant of the city of Berlin), in Ruhleben, at the beginning of our project. We wanted to see, learn and experience with our own eyes the processes that wastewater goes through once it reaches the treatment plant. For us this was a key step in our project because it provided insights about the possibility of including our research and solutions in already established facilities. We were extensively informed about the history, and the construction of this wastewater treatment plant. We were allowed to see every purification step and were enlightened about the technical structures. Also, we discussed about necessary changes for the future and about a changeover of the plant. Moreover, we acquired an overview about current problems and basic approaches for the optimization of the plant. We consulted with employees of the plant and talked about current research works about microplastics and others, including drug residues present in water. Another subject we brainstormed about was the form, the size, and the place of action of our project called Enzymatic Flagellulose, that aims to eliminate microplastics through degradation. It was a nice experience to see how the plant actually works and to see how complexly the whole plant is constructed. They kindly offered to test our prototypes in the future and to provide additional guidance about the possible logistics to implement a microplastics degradation unit in the system. Additionally, they offered us to link us to other research groups in the wastewater treatment field and some possible contacts for funding. We thank the “Berliner Wasserbetriebe” for the time they offered us and are very grateful for their help in our project. Here are some impressions of this awesome day at BWB:

Grants 4 Apps - Bayer
The iGEM Berlin 2015 team presented the Enzymatic Flagellulose project at a pitch night organized by Bayer's initiative "Grants4Apps". The event aimed to provide a startup-familiar solution platform to young innovators willing to eliminate healthcare threats. The project was very well accepted by an audience of healthcare practitioners, scientists and investors due to its multidisciplinary approach. We walked the extra mile and talked about a possible but accidental consumption of microplastics by humans or animals. We addressed this possible scenario by drawing attention to the fact that microplastics need to be correctly degraded or eliminated before or after they reach the water treatment plant. The head of the initiative provided us with contacts for further development of the idea in the business field. By doing this, we complemented the previous community-inclusive participation of iGEM Berlin, in the Science Cafe and the LNdW, by addressing the corporate world and the big names in the industry.

UI-Indonesia iGEM team (Questionnaire about family planning)
Team CGU_Taiwan (Questionnaire about every teams moral issues – I also translated the questionnaire into german)
iGEM Paris Saclay (Questionnaire per E-Mail über Chassis und Sicherheit)
iGEM Oxford (if Skype chat takes place)
iGEM TU Delft (text for WIKI)
IIT Kharagpur iGEM team (survey about food spoilage)
Kent iGEM team (questionnaire about nanowires)
Korea_U_Seoul (survey about synthetic biology and tools)
NEFU_China (couldn’t open questionnaire.. if we answer their questions we will have them as collaboration partners too)
2015 CU_Boulder team