Public speech for iGEM

Time: May 20th 2015

Location: Science Building SA236

Participating members: Team members in XJTLU-CHINA, staffs in the department of biology, students interested in synbio and iGEM.

Purpose of this event: we hope more people could be involved in the iGEM competition and develop an interest in synthetic biology. Also, by holding this event, XJTLU-CHINA want to strengthen the collaboration between university and gain further sponsorship or policy permission.

Figure 1. iGEM public speech

Jodie, as the team leader, started the presentation and introduced synthetic biology to the attendees. Synthetic biology was explained as the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems and the re-design of existing natural biological systems for useful purposes. The engineering perspective of synthetic biology interested students from other department. She also talked about iGEM, the main process during the competition, and modern biological technologies used in iGEM. This was the first time staffs in biology department are introduced to iGEM and its importance.

Figure 2. iGEM logo used during the presentation

Figure 3. 2015 iGEM team map

Next in the public speech was the introduction of several projects in the previous iGEM competition. Teammates displayed the ‘This is not a lemon!’ project from Paris Saclay, ‘E. Gr?tzel, Solar BioEnergy’ project from TU-Darmstadt, ‘Membranes from Bacterial Cellulose’ project form Imperial, ‘Magnetic E. coli’ project from Berlin, ‘Engineering a synthetic microbial consortium’ project from Braunschweig University of Technology. Attendees were surprised about those creative ideas and work from undergraduates. Dr. Meng said that he was amazed by those work that done by undergraduate students and some projects were exceed his exception.

Figure 4. Audiences participating in the public speech

The final part was the most important section, the announcement for our own projects. We revealed two projects, which came out after long time discussion and brainstorm. One is a novel protein expression system with circular mRNA and RNA thermometer. Another is the synthesis of crispr-cas system in gliomas cell to specifically knock out CD44 gene for inhibiting cell migration and activation. Professor Lv asked many questions about circular mRNA. He thought it could be used as drug to regulate gene expression; however he doubted that whether it could be used for the translation of proteins. Hence, James explained the mechanism of group I intron self-splicing RNA and results from literatures. Pro. Lv agreed and would like to help us with the project. Dr. Liu thought RNA thermometer was quite interesting and could be widely used. She hoped we could use RNA thermometer to create a fantastic project. Although the projects were replaced by another better idea, we still gained a lot from group discussions and research training.

Figure 5. Explanation time for James

Figure 6. Introduction for RNA thermometer

After this public speech, many biology students strongly wanted to join our team. Unfortunately, we had enough team members so that we encouraged them to participate in the 2016 iGEM competition instead. We discussed iGEM and its projects with professors and all the attendees present.

Figure 7. Discussion with professor Lv

Figure 8. Conversation with the students about iGEM

iGEM teams work shop

Participating team: XJTLU-CHINA; NYU-Shanghai; China-Tongji; ZJU-China; USTC; USTC-Software; Fudan

Time: 1st August 2015

Location: Shanghai Science & technology museum

Section 1
Preparing for the workshop

We received an invitation letter from NYU-Shanghai for iGEM team communication on 1st August 2015. They invited six iGEM teams from five famous universities located in southeast China. We displayed our projects to public at shanghai Science & technology museum and had had a lively communicated with each other. We prepared a poster about iGEM and our project, as well as a video to show the XJTLU-CHINA iGEM team and Xi`an Jiaotong-Liverpool university.

Figure 1: Exhibition position for XJTLU-CHIAN iGEM team

Figure 2: Poster and communication with other team member

Figure 3: Assembling equipment to play the video

Figure 4: Our lovely princess

Section 2
Introducing our project to other iGEM teams

The poster showed the topic and proposals of our project. The project involves the use of various colored E. coli to draw a world map; they in turn could change their color with an increase in temperature. Therefore, the color of world map will be changed as well, which could mimic the process of global warming. The poster also illustrated two creative ideas; one was using RNA thermometers controlling the translation of chrome-proteins, another was the constructing of genetic circuit which made protein expression ordered. We displayed the poster and introduced the project to other iGEM teams. They in turn, also gave us many useful suggestions on completing our project and improving parts quality.

This participant from USTC said: “First, I consider that your ideas are amazing! You can stimulate the process of global warming by culturing bacteria on medium. That is so creative. Furthermore, although you are just doing art design, your team has too much work to realize it. In all, your project this year is excellent!I can give you a little advice. Your project could closely stimulate the global climate. Why not go and achieve the up-date data of global climate? Therefore, you can control the temperature to display more detail information. If so, your bacterial map will be closer to the real world.”

Figure 5: Communicating with a gentleman from the USTC team

A lady from China-Tongji said: “It is a great idea to let the bacteria change their color automatically in order to stimulate the process of global warming. This can directly encourage people to feel the influence of global warming. Also, it contains of many aspects and can mimic many phenomena such as sea-level rise and interaction between coastal and inland area. This design is really delicate.”

Figure 6. Communicating with a lady from China-Tongji

A team member from NYU-Shanghai said: “I think your project is really cool! I think it different! You guys are a kind of art design, but you are also very scientific. We try to do something similar. We want to do something very (scientific) also very art! Every week, we are getting closer very art. But I think you guys are still vey scientific. It is really cool!”

Figure 7: Communicating with a team member from NYU-Shanghai

Section 3
Conversing with other iGEM teams

After talking with other iGEM teams, we were surprised by their work during the summer. China-Tongji iGEM team tried to make nematodes light-sensitive, which we thought was an amazing project. Although scientists had created light-sensitive mice, challenge remains expression of light-sensitive proteins. We also pointed out issues with ethics and safety for China-Tongji.
ZJU-China team made a funny biological playing card; this board game could help student learn much about synthetic biology. We advised them to make the board game easier to understand and design it with information that is more detailed so that public could accept it rather than biology students only.
NYU-Shanghai did a fantastic project; their work not only limited to synthetic biology but also involved applying knowledge and technologies from multiple subjects including electrical engineering, computer science and VR. We learned a lot from what they did on expanding human practices and thus designed LEGO project to show our genetic circuit and RNA thermometer. We wish this attempt would make our project to be easier to be understood by general public. Furthermore, we started to cooperate with them after the workshop. We provided several biobricks for them as support to finish their project.

Figure 8. China-Tongli

Figure 9. NYU-Shanghai

Figure 10. ZJU-China

Figure 11. USTC

Section 4
Public presentation

One of the most important tasks in iGEM competition is human practice. This task aimed to let more people in different fields to synthetic biology and iGEM.
We paid much effort to human practices. During the workshop, we explained thorough detail of our project to many visitors including a museum staff who presented all projects on the museum website for online visitors. Many of the attendees have no background in biology, thereby we used the simplest way to introduce synthetic biology and show our project. Additionally, we gave an academic presentation to an expert from Fudan University. He was very drawn to the ribosome meter and predicted that this technology would have a huge application. During workshop, we were surprised to find that a little child was able to participate in the NYU-Shanghai exhibition. Giving education to next generation may be the best way to resolve the issue of global warming.

Figure 12: Talking with a staff from the museum

Figure 13: Introducing to a museum visitor

Figure 14: A child listening to biological music

Figure 15: Presentation to an expert from Fudan

Questionnaire for XJTLU-iGEM

Survey for synthetic biology, bio-safety, global warming and our project

Method for Survey: Questionnaire

Starting time:2015-8-1

Ending time:2015-8-31

People were chosen randomly from internet

Data analysis:

Question 1
Have you ever heard about synthetic biology before this survey?

iGEM competition is an annual, world wide, synthetic biology event. This question is aimed to find whether synthetic biology is well-known in China or not and let more people know about this field. According to this result, only a quarter of people heard about bio-synthesis before our survey. Over a half of people did not know about synthetic biology before. Also, 16 people were not sure that they had a clear idea about synthetic biology. We considered that most of people did not have biological background. Furthermore, industries that are working on bio-synthesis have just been developed recently in China so it is not popular right now. Therefore, we should provide some associated information for public. If people chose ‘B’ and ‘C’, the definition of synthetic biology would be displayed. Additionally, we found that they were also willing to search synthetic biology on internet and wanted to learn more about this novel field>

Provided definition: Synthetic biology is the design and construction of biological devices and systems for useful purposes. It is an area of biological research and technology that combines biology and engineering, thus often overlapping with bioengineering and biomedical engineering. It encompasses a variety of different approaches, methodologies, and disciplines with a focus on engineering biology and biotechnology.

Question 2
Which conventional industries will be replaced by synthetic biology?

As we known, synthetic biology can be applied in many area and even replace some conventional industries. We asked Dr. Liu, a biologist in our university, for which area could be replaced by bio-synthesis. She made a list including agriculture, metallurgic industry, cottonocracy and oil industry. Hence, we asked people this question to find if they knew the application of synthetic biology. Result was that most of people considered that conventional industries such as agriculture, cottonocracy and oil industry may be replaced by bio-synthesis. Particularly, the majority of people chose oil because they know biofuels are being used. However, only a few people knew that synthetic biology could be applied in metallurgic industries as well.

Question 3
Have you ever heard about bio-safety before?

Biosafety is an important issue in biological research as well as in human society. We wanted to find out if people knew about bio-safety and we hoped that they could pay attention to bio-safety after this survey. Result was that less than a half of people have heard about bio-safety before and over a half of people did not consider about safe problem. Therefore, we provided some information about biosafety after they answered this question; they could learn and start to think about bio-safe problem.

Provided information: Biosafety is the prevention of large-scale loss of biological integrity, focusing both on ecology and human health. These prevention mechanisms include conduction of regular reviews of the biosafety in laboratory settings, as well as strict guidelines to follow. Biosafety is used to protect us from harmful incidents. A complete understanding of experimental risks associated with synthetic biology is helping to enforce the knowledge and effectiveness of biosafety.

Question 4
Some people consider that modern biotechnologies including synthetic biotechnology may cause problem in safety of human society. do you agree or disagree?

Modern biotechnologies have developed of human society in many ways, for example clinical treatment, biofuels and GMOs. Nonetheless, some people worrys that biotechnologies may cause ethic or safe problem in human society. Hence, we ask people this question to find their opinions about biotechnologies. Result was that 32.5% of people agreed that synthetic biotechnology may cause safe problems. While, 28.75% of people considered it was absolutely safe. However, over one third people were not sure that if it had positive effect or negative effect. We thought that many people in China did not accept biotechnology, they worry that it would be harmful to their heath. We should do more work to ensure the safety of biotechnology so that more people will trust it.

Question 5
What do you think is the current situation of global climate?

We wanted to find Chinese people’ views on climate change. Results are that over a half of people considered that the situation of global warming was quite serious and almost half of people felt that climate is changing currently. Particularly, there was nobody thinking that the climate is as same as many years ago. Therefore, we can know Chinese people still care about the climate and had similar view that climate is changing currently.

Question 6
Which of the following item do you think is the main cause of greenhouse effect?

We asked reasons for climate change, the majority of people thought we destoryed the environment and a few people considered it was the automatical process of on Earth's development.

Question 7
Which behavior do you think will intensify the greenhouse effect?

According to the result, industrial pollution is considered as the most serious issue on environmnet as well as the most significant reason of the climate change. Also, people thought that the reducing vegetation and the destruction of eco-environment caused global warming. They did not view the urbanization and garbage were the main reasons.

Question 8
Do you pay attention to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and promote low carbon life in your daily life?

CO2 is a type of warming gases, its uncontrolled emissions may result in climate change. We wanted to remain people of reducing the emissions of CO2 in their daily life. We found that people would like to enjoy green lifestyle such as riding bicycle, but they need more guide lines.

Question 9
Is it safe or not to display the process of global warming on our biothermomap? Please state your opinion.

Two thirds of people thought our project is safe, while the rest of them were worried about safety issue. They argued that biology students may have operation mistakes so that these bacteria could separate into environment and cause danger. We explained that we had a serious trainning to prevent any mistake during experiments. Furthermore, any biomaterial in lab must be treated before it enters the environment.

GMOs are popular in US, they usually have better properties. However, more and more people concern about the safety of genetically modified food, though some authentic organization such as FDA or WHO announced GM foods are absolutely safe. We wanted to find Chinese people’s views on GM foods, thus we ask them question 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Question 10
Which foods do you think are genetically modified? Please choose one or more.>

We listed many genetically modified foods, which were obtained from internet. Results were that the majority of people know the soybean was GMO as well as anti-virus pimento. While, less than half of people considered that cherry tomato, which means many people still did not it is genetically modified. Particularly, only a few people thought the potato with smooth surface as GMO, but most of people did not know. In conclusion, we thought Chinese people could distinguish some common GMOs, however some they could not. Therefore, more information about genetically modified foods should be provided to public.

Question 11
Have you bought and eaten genetically modified food?

We found that about 44% of people had bought and eaten the GM foods while only 4 people clearly knew that they never bought or ate any GM foods. We were surprised found that over a half of people were not sure they ate GM foods. Reasons for that is GM foods were not obviously labeled in China or they usually ignore the label.

Question 12
Why did you chose them? Please choose one or more.

Most of people thought that GM foods had good looking so they choose them. Many people thought they were delicious and contains additional nutrition. Also, many people were curious about GMOs and never saw them before. However, some people chose GM foods because the foods were cheap and no organic food was available. Additionally, a few people thought that GM food could be preserved in longer time and had other better properties.

Question 13
Do you think the genetically modified food is safe?

People who considered GM foods safe were less than those thinking the foods dangerous. Nonetheless, there were 60% of people are not sure that if GM foods is safe or not. We thought more scientific research should be conducted to prove this issue.

Question 14
Do you think the catastrophes caused by uncontrolled bio-technology in some films will happen in the real world? Please choose the disasters which you believe that may come true.

This question was just for fun.



According to our experiment, RNA thermometer will form a loop on mRNA to inhibit protein translation, while the loop could open if temperature increases so that ribosome can pass the loop and produce peptides. We aim to use LEGO robot to present how the RNA thermometer work in E coli. Furthermore, in order to show this processing directly and teach public some knowledge of synbio, we designed and assembled a LGEO model to stimulate protein translation.

Show time

Hello, I am a happy ribosome; now, I'm binding with my favorite mRNA and start to finish my job producing peptides.

BUT, WHAT IS THIS? A loop on the mRNA stops me; I cannot walk alone the way! OMG!!! Who can help me? T^T

Fortunately, the loop disappears because of increasing temperature so that I can pass this typical sequence to restart my work.

I walk alone the mRNA sequence, translate every codon to amino acid, and connect them to peptide by dehydration.

Here, I finish my job~ the red ball and the blue ball are the peptides of chromoproteins.