Team:Virginia/Human Practices Overview


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Human Practices Overview

As synthetic biologists engineering intricate systems, we often forget to consider the larger bioethical implications of our work. Meanwhile, the public focuses on these implications rather than the science, leading to widespread concern. As has been shown by the recent controversy surrounding GMO-based products, even the most beneficial research cannot be implemented without public approval; additionally, such research might not even be conducted in the first place should it lose funding from taxpayer dollars through the NIH.

Given these considerations, we were alarmed to learn that only 18% of Americans believe that the benefits of synthetic biology outweigh the risks (Awareness & Impressions of Synthetic Biology, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars). To combat this problem, we developed a dual-focus, comprehensive educational program targeting both students and adults. Educating high school students through a standardized curriculum and informing adults through a brief documentary, we hope to increase both public knowledge and acceptance of synthetic biology. Additionally, multiple features of the team in the media have broadcasted iGEM and synthetic biology to the public at large.

For most detailed information regarding our human practices efforts, please see the links to the following under our human practices menu:

Safety Considerations – In consultation with the UVA Environmental Health & Safety Department, appropriate laboratory precautions were taken according to biosafety standards. Please view our basic safety form and part two biosafety forms for human serum and Yersinia enterocolitica, as are available on this link.

High School Education Series Through partnership with Renaissance High School in downtown Charlottesville, VA, we developed a comprehensive 6-workshop curriculum to expose high school students to synthetic biology. Entirely standardized, this curriculum may be easily adapted by any collegiate iGEM team to instruct and develop a high school iGEM team. Links to all course materials, including a syllabus, instructor notes, PowerPoint presentations, interactive activities, recommended readings, and discussion questions, are available.

Documentary – Footage from interviews with three experts in biology, medicine, and bioethics were compiled within a short documentary to explore topics in biosafety, open source research, and the potential impact of our specific minicell project. Although embedded within our wiki, the documentary is also available on YouTube to effectively reach a wide audience.

Media Coverage – Featured in multiple media outlets, including CVille Weekly, the Daily Progress, UVA Today, NBC 29, and WUVA, we are not only bringing synthetic biology to the public through our high school education series and documentary, but through the press as well.