Team:UFMG Brazil/Divulgation



Disclosing synthetic biology and science popularization

Synthetic biology is not well known in Brazil and we realized that one of the consequences of this is the small number of Brazilian teams competing in iGEM. With a little more publicity, we could help raise awareness of synthetic biology in Brazil and perhaps increase the number of Brazilian teams in the coming years.

No information on Wikipedia(pt)

A simple example of the lack of information in Portuguese about iGEM: there is no page on Wikipedia (of course, we are working to solve this). In this chart below, we see the comparison of the interest over time to organic searches on Google by "synthetic biology" and its counterpart in Portuguese. The numbers on the graph reflect how many searches have been done for a particular term, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time (they do not represent absolute search volume numbers):

This other graph is the comparison of interest in iGEM competition in different Latin American countries:

So, our divulgation was made not just to communicate with other teams, but also to inform and generate interest in public unaware of this new area of research and this competition. To do so, we promoted different initiatives within and outside the university.

Within the university

Synbio OpenHouse

UFMG´s Synbio Open House invitation

In February of 2013 was held a SynBio Open House at UFMG. The invitation to this event was sent to all academic community. The event was presented by our instructor Liza Felicori, who made an introduction to synthetic biology for those who attended, which also had the opportunity to apply to be a participant in the iGEM team.


Presentation of our proposal to IGEM competition at the seminar of the UFMG Graduate Program of Biochemistry and Immunology in April 19th

On April 19th, when we were starting to be known inside the university, we were invited to make a presentation about iGEM, our team members and project proposal for the competition on the seminar organized by the Biochemistry and Immunology Graduate Program. This seminar happens on Fridays and has as audience the graduate students and professors from the department. It was a very good experience because we practiced a formal presentation and had the opportunity of answering several questions about our project and experimental design. After the presentation, we received valuable tips from UFMG researchers, which helped us to adjust our proposals concerning the chosen biomarkers and the experimental approaches for achieving our aim.

Classes at the course “Ideas in immunology”

Once our initiative on participating of iGEM was disclosed, the professor Nelson Monteiro Vaz, involved on a partnership between Brazil and Boston, showed great interest and invited us to have a talk to other students during two classes of the course “Ideas in immunology”. In these opportunities, we could introduce students to synthetic biology and the iGEM competition, present our project and debate how new trends in immunology may lead to a paradigm shift, revealing how body interacts to microbiota and new horizons to synthetic biology projects, like on the use of probiotics. New scientific reports presented on the last World Congress on Inflammation and the Annual Congress of Brazilian Society of Immunology (SBI) were also debated, including the important role of TMAO on immune system modulation as bacterial product, what highlights the relevance of our project.

Offering a new course: Introduction to Synthetic Biology

Related to iGEM opportunity to apply knowledge of synthetic biology, our instructor Liza Figueiredo Felicori Vilela created a new course, called “Introduction to Synthetic Biology”, which students might apply. Therefore, this was an important step to academically set the participation on the iGEM competition and disclosure more and more about SynBio.

UFMG & Escolas Project

In order to introduce children to synthetic biology universe (literally… virtually travelling to Mars!) of present and future applications, we have created and applied a didactic (and, please… fun!) game for middle school students. This opportunity and public arose from a preceding, very prestigious project (called “UFMG & Escolas”, literally UFMG & Schools; from the Biological Sciences Institute (ICB) of our university, whose intention is presenting compulsory school students to scientific life. Along a week, students participate in many activities related to what academic community produces. They also have the opportunity of developing and presenting a proposal of an empiric project that they have to idealize and execute.

According to our planning, a short presentation tought students about the concept of synthetic biology, the biological structures, and the iGEM competition. Once students had this basic information, they were oriented to separate themselves into seven groups, dispersed along the room where there were monitors from iGEM_UFMG team. Each group received a card deck and chose an initially secret mission to explore by engineering a genetically modified organism (GMO).

On a first moment, the card game (BRICKARD) was played among the group mates: each student should individually try joining the set of cards that he/she judged propitious to form the GMO able to solve the problem presented in the group mission.

At this time, they only knew details about their own mission, while there were cards related to the other missions, whose utility they ignored. Whether no one could show a complete and congruent set approved by all group mates at the end of 5 minutes, the group together should elect one. On a second phase, independently from how they achieve the set, the whole group should present its mission and chosen solution to everyone, justifying why their set of cards could be used to construct a GMO in order to complete the mission.

The boys and girls were always stimulated to speculate, trace hypotheses and show arguments (for or against), but direct answers were not easily given to them. After each group final presentation, students were argued and evaluated by other students (their pairs!), which decided if the group efforts deserved or not a reward (two yummy chocolates…). All of them received candies and applauses, but the real sweetness was on their discovering about how science is made and where biological engineering may take us.

The Brickard Game

BRICKARD is the card game we created as a tool to help explaining synthetic biology in a fun way. The game consists in a deck composed by 40 cards, which are divided into the main biobrick categories:

Five types of Brickards
  • promoter cards,
  • RBS cards,
  • coding region cards,
  • terminator cards,
  • chassis cards.

Each group of players receive a mission alongside the deck, with an explanatory text regarding a problem they have to solve combining the cards, just like we do (with the real stuff!) in our lab. The missions were priority based on projects from past iGEM participations. They were:

Mission 1: Fuel from sunlight

Mission 2: Microplastic

Mission 3: Spoiled meat

Mission 4: Malaria and artemisin

Mission 5: Celiac disease

Mission 6: Space exploration

Mission 7: Our own project!

To simulate difficulties faced on real experiments, there were incompatibilities among some cards. Promoter and terminator cards were classified according to an arbitrary force from 1 to 5 (represented by the number of full colored stars on cards), suggesting that different sequences present different affinities and, so, act on transcription on different ways. Thus, weak promoters could just be used with strong terminators, and constitutive promoters must join weak terminators following precise indications on each card description. Some options of chassis may apply, but the real possibility of their use should be justified; besides, each chassis must be combined with a specific RBS (bacteria with bacteria RBS, yeast with yeast RBS and so on), pointing the existence of molecular patterns that turn a sequence specific to a certain organism. Finally, the coding region cards included a sort of key genes to solve the problems proposed; the gene originally used by the related iGEM team was our expectation for each mission, but we were open to new creative, wellsupported devices students might present.

Download the game (English version):

Outside the university


BiOS: website about synbio in Portuguese

BiOS: this is the name of our website, created to disseminate information in Portuguese about our team, synthetic biology and iGEM. It was set up in February 2013 with introductory information on these subjects and, now, also has a blog and a forum for questions and answers.

To improve users engagement to our site we use the strategy of "gamification", so they earn badges as they participate in the site activity, such as:

  • make a new question
  • vote for the best answer
  • comment on the blog posts
  • read many discussions
  • like a post or a comments

There are 24 kinds of badges:


Our numbers so far:

  • more than 12.000 page views
  • average of 20 visists per day
  • 166 posts in the blog (34 of these are about synbio papers)
  • 409 pages were indexed by google

Visit our website:

Social media

In order to reach the biggest public as we could, besides delivering information at small amounts and on a pleasant way, we also explored different social media environments, what provided us great feedback and help either.



SIMI Social Network (Innovation system of the State of Minas Gerais)

Our materials

Together with our pleasure on promoting events that seed and grow knowledge about synthetic biology and the iGEM on people of many ages, we had to concern about a more practical problem: money to develop and travel to present our work! An iGEM team cannot live only from ideas after all… Due to it, part of the material we have created/provided, besides widely disseminating these concepts and our ideas, team and project, acted more directly on the seeking for sponsors and people that liked, learned and could become willing to support us financially.


The poster was posted within the university and served to publicize the team´s blog, fan page, twitter account and our crowd funding site.



We created a brochure especially for potential sponsors, explaining the great opportunity to become a partner of our team.


Educational video: “Piece by piece: what is synthetic biology?”

We also created a video disclosing about synthetic biology, the relevance of this new area of knowledge and about iGEM, including the participation of Brazilian teams.

In the news

Besides the television media of our university, two major Brazilian newspapers sought our team for an interview. It reveals a feedback to our initial disclosure and an interest about synthetic biology and our project, taking more and more information to society. One of them (Estado de Minas) made this fine infographic explaining our project very clearly to the readers:


Links with the complete news are below, as well as the video exhibited on TV UFMG.

Estado de Minas (22/09/2013):,451506/ufmg-desenvolve-sistema-que-alerta-sobre-risco-cardiaco-com-antecedencia.shtml

Correio Brasiliense (23/09/2013):,389519/grupo-da-ufmg-estuda-metodo-que-alertara-sobre-riscos-de-ataque-cardiaco.shtml


Hackathon Seminar

First HackDay and Hackathon

Our team was invited to talk about synthetic biology and its innovative potential at 1st Hackathon organized by Minas Gerais government. At this edition of the international event, in which computer programmers and others involved in software development collaborate intensively on software projects, participants were proposed to figure out and develop interesting and efficient interfaces to make public data available. This event had the participation of MIT Center for Civic Media.

MIT Center for Civic Media

In this context, we could present a comparative overview about how biological information, found at genetic material, may also be manipulated and integrated on different ways in order to create novel and useful combinations. We were also able to talk about iGEM and our participation on it, and, by comparing both competitions, debate how many benefits may arise mainly from people interaction, the development of an altogether, hard, intensive work and collaboration, providing revolutionary products or services to society.

Finally, we debated about ethics regarding science and the use of animal models for research, a recently trending subject in Brazil after invaded a research institute. Then, more than providing some clarification about ethic committees and their requirements, we explained how synthetic biology might be a source of alternative approaches. All this made us really happy once we could supply an important social demand.

Event website:


As we have already mentioned, there was no content about iGEM in Portuguese on Wikipedia, one of the most important online source of information. So, we created a new article by translating content already available in English and also adding novel information regarding the Brazilian participation on the iGEM competition. The article may be accessed on

Furthermore, plans to develop a project to make more content regarding synthetic biology available in Portuguese are currently underway. The ideia arrised from an invitation from a Wikimedia Foundation representative and a big collaborative network is supposed to be built.

Our Sponsors

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