Team:UFMG Brazil/humanpractice


As a freshman on iGEM and therefore surrounded by novelty, our team invested on human practices both to let nearby people know about synthetic biology and iGEM, and to reinforce on us what we had come for. And that was hugely rewarding and pretty fun!

Basically, we choose these approaches for our human practices:

  1. Disclose synthetic biology and iGEM in Brazil (in Portuguese language);
  2. Talk to experts in the field and with people from other areas and background to seek new perspectives;
  3. Thinking outside the box: to go beyond the laboratory, students were encouraged to think in new ideas related to synthetic biology, seeking new bioethical, economic, educational, philosophical... approaches.

Some big questions were always raised during the course of our activities:

  • Why are we choosing to perform this activity?
  • What will we learn from this activity?
  • How will this activity help improving our project?



No information on wikipedia(pt)
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.

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 interess 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 don't 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 to inform and generate interest in public unaware of this new area of ​​research and this competition.

In the news

Besides the media of our university, two major Brazilian newspapers reported our project, and one of them (Estado de Minas) made this fine infographic explaining our project very clearly to the readers:


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

Social Media



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.





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:

  1. Mission: Fuel from sunlight
  2. Mission: Microplastic
  3. Mission: Spoiled meat
  4. Mission: Malaria and artemisin
  5. Mission: Celic disease
  6. Mission: Space exploration
  7. Mission: 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 (English version):

Augmented Reality App


We have created an augmented reality app to allow people to interact with our poster - to be presented at Latin America Jamboree (Chile). In that way they can, using our application, access our videos, charts, graphs, and our wiki page. We think the poster presentations events can be more interesting with this kind of resource and we never saw the use of such technology in academic poster before.

The application was created as a skin of the Aurasma system, in a partnership, and can be downloaded for Android in this website:

The video below is a demonstration of this app, note that some images of the poster trigger the content (video, image and a 3D model) in the tablet:


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:


The Meta-Lab aims to be an open space for collaboration, creation, experimentation and development of objects and devices to support teaching and research, through low-tech tools, free knowledge and rapid prototyping machines. Our first goal was to create a site to group DIY projects related to science that could be used by universities and schools in Brazil.

DIY Equipament

The fluorimeter is a device capable of measuring the intensity of fluorescence emitted by a particular substance, so
First prototype
we can be be able to know the exact amount of this substance in the sample. The bacteria that is being developed as a diagnostic tool by the UFMG team (CardBio project), will be able to report, according to the fluorescence intensity, the amount of certain substances (biomarkers) in serum of the patient, allowing a more accurate assessment of their health conditions. Despite its simplicity, the fluorometers are expensive equipaments and not so easy to use, so, there is a necessity to develop simple and cheaper model.

Based on previous iGEM projects[1] we design and build a portable and low cost fluorometer, that could be used with the Cardbio bacteria. The first version is based in the project of the Cambridge Team 2010 (Eglomer), but we use a cheaper light sensor: the TSL235, it´s a light-to-frequency converter that outputs a square wave (50% duty cycle) with frequency directly proportional to light intensity (irradiance). As you can see in the video below, which uses an open hardware oscilloscope to test the sensor:

In the second version, we inserted a color sensor in the previous project (ADJD-S311, able to discriminate different light frequencies), we remove the keypad and use a larger screen for easier reading. More testing needs to be done to make the device suitable for the needs of the project.

The box design
Wiring diagram
Second prototype

References [1]:


Heart diseases in the Brazilian healthcare system (SUS)

Biosafety beyond the laws

Piece by piece: what is synthetic biology?

Our talks

Synbio OpenHouse

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.

UFMG´s Synbio Open House invitation


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, we had to answer 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.

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; ufmg-escolas/) 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.

Art Work

The E. coli our dilemma

The E. coli our dilemma

Red and blue and green and yellow

The E. coli from IGEM goes shining

And when it grows (yes, it grows!) and shine

When we see it is like a samba that

Seems so cool and and it is so useful

That when it grows (yes, it grows!) and shine

Oh! But I watch it so sadly

What can I do so it works well?

Yes, we would make many happy hearts!

But each day when I walk through the lab

it looks great but not enough for me

Red and blue and green and yellow

The E. coli from IGEM goes shining

And when it shines I smile, I'll go to Jamboree

Our Sponsors

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