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Due to strong ecological / organic movements in Tübingen’s population any bioscientific ventures will be considered rather critically at first. Especially genetic engineering projects are very problematic in this environment. At last year’s SynBio-Day we noticed that there are many misconceptions about genetics and molecular /cell biology and that many opponents of genetic engineering were not very well informed about both, biology in general (many people thought for example that sausages and tofu do not contain DNA) and genetic engineering in particular. In contrast, many individuals with extensive knowledge about biology and GMOs had a highly differentiated opinion about genetic engineering and were able to distinguish between green genetic engineering and other applications when questioned about their position. Last year, we met many people who proposed the application of genetic engineering especially for the synthesis of drugs and enzymes.

Having this correlation between opinion about GMOs and knwowledge in mind, we decided to establish a tradition for the iGEM-Team Tuebingen by again taking part at the nationwide SynBio-Day in order to inform the public about our work and synthetic and molecular biology itself. In the end, our main aim was to spark informed discussions between proponents and opponents of genetic engineering by giving both parties some basic knowledge about the methods and the scientific background of molecular / synthetic biology.

In order to achieve our aims we set up a small booth in Tübingen’s historic city center on a nice Saturday morning. Like last year, we had prepared a little quiz to test people’s basic knowledge about (synthetic) biology. Due to the upcoming federal elections in Germany many political parties were present nearby on Tübingen’s marketplace with their booths and their campaign workers thus many people were strolling through town and talking to politicians. Many passersby stopped at our booth and had a look at our posters and many people were curious to know why we (not being a political organization) had set up our booth. Discussions about our project and synthetic biology started quickly and over the course of the day we had conversations with a wide range of people: from high-school students who wanted to study science after their graduation to emeritus professors and other scientists who used to work at our university. Of course biology-teachers from local schools were highly interested in our work but even families with young children asked questions about our progestin measurement system. In the late morning we were able to discuss up to half an hour with a single person. However, in the early afternoon, passersby rather wanted to take a look at the posters than have a conversation about synthetic biology.

All in all, our Synbio-Day was very well received. Especially scientists from University of Tuebingen’s science-campus were highly interested in our project and gave us lots of useful tips and pointed out ways to improve our measurement system.

Since SynBio-Day is a national event, other German iGEM-Teams have organized a booth or some other activity on that day. Team Bielefeld, Team Freiburg, and Team Marburg have written about their experiences in their Team-Wikis - have a look at their reports!


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