MadLab panel discussion - 7th February 2013
The first conference that the team attended was organised by the Manchester Digital Lab (MadLab). MadLab is a community project that organises events in many different disciplines, but the team was most interested in the DIY Bio event that we stumbled across. A panel discussion was held called ‘Local Bioeconomies’, themed around what synthetic biology can do, and public literacy of this subject. The panelists included; Asa Calow, DIY Biologist and Founder and Director of the MadLab in Manchester; John O'Shea, artist and creator of the world's first bio-engineered football; Philipp Boeing, UCL iGEM ‘11/‘12 and London Biohackers; and Rod Dillon, lecturer in biomedicine, School of Health and Medicine, Lancaster University.
After the panel discussion, the team mingled with the speakers and the other guests and got some useful feedback for our early project ideas, and also some valuable advice about how to successfully plan and execute an iGEM project in general. It was a really interesting event that properly kicked off our thinking into human practices. You can watch a video all about it below!

Future Perspectives in Synthetic Biology - 8th February 2013
The following day, 8th February, the team attended a conference hosted by the University of Manchester, titled “Future Perspectives in Synthetic Biology”. The guests and speakers in attendance were a mix of academics from within the university interested in biotechnology, and industry representatives from such companies as GlaxoSmithKline and Syngenta. We already had some project ideas in mind at this point, but the various talks by faculty staff and guest speakers proved very useful for narrowing down our search. We gave a very brief presentation to the guests, introducing the iGEM competition and what it entails.
Coffee and lunch breaks were used as networking opportunities! We presented a poster with more in-depth details of iGEM and encouraged the attendees, in particular the industry representatives, to speak with us.
Overall, we feel that attending this conference really bolstered our knowledge about synthetic biology in general, and what applications it is currently being used for. The talks were very interesting and some even inspired new project ideas!

Eccelso Presentation
In July, Rob and Ralf gave a presentation to a representative from Eccelso, a company specialising in the production of vegetable fats and margarine. We presented our ideas to them, and they explained how palm oil products are used in the industry. Talking to somebody with direct experience of using our potential future product was very useful, and their advice helped us to decide whether to create our fatty acids all in one production batch or in multiple batches. In addition to the great advice, they also provided us with sponsorship. Thanks Eccelso!

Young Synthetic Biologists (YSB 1.0) - 12th July 2013
In July, half of the team (the rest were either graduating or attending family weddings - slackers!) travelled down to London to take part in the first ever Young Synthetic Biologists conference (YSB 1.0). Since we couldn’t make the SynBio 6.0 conference we were ready to make the most of this opportunity to network with fellow budding synthetic biologists!
Over the course of the weekend we participated in both a poster and oral presentation, gave feedback on the other teams’ projects and received some interesting opinions on our own work (mainly concerning our model, lots of people were very interested in it!) Various workshops were provided and so we split up and each went to a separate one, we thought we might as well aim to get as much out of the conference as possible. The workshops proved to be a great way to network with the other teams, and quite soon Jess had rallied some other teams into attempting a modelling collaboration (more of that over on its specific modelling page).
Overall it was a great experience and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone again in Lyon!

Meeting With Environmental Activists - 18th September 2013
After finishing most of our factual background research for our human practices, we thought it would be good to hear what different members of society thought of what we were planning. As part of this we contacted a local branch of a national environmental group (as the opinions of the members present may not be representative of the larger organisation, they wish to remain anonymous). This conversation was very interesting, and the group was very grateful for it as they said there is not enough two-way dialogue between scientists and environmentalists. We discussed a wide range of topics, from things directly linking to our project such as flaws of the RSPO and governance issues, to more general topics such as the relationship between scientists and the general public.

These meetings, in addition to conversations with other industry representatives from around the world, informed nearly all aspects of our project. In particular, the ideas discussed have been summarised in our essay, entitled ‘Public Attitudes To Science and the Knowledge Deficit Assumption: How To Avoid A Crisis Of Confidence’)