University of Alberta - BioBytes

Human Practices

Outreach Presentations

Presentations completed : 7

Number of students reached so far: ~230

We have six more presentations scheduled between November and January, which will bring the total number of students we've reached to ~440!

Our outreach component consists of presentations and pamphlets for high school and junior high school students about synthetic biology, iGEM, and our project. We’re doing this outreach primarily for the high school students’ own interest and benefit. Synthetic biology is rapidly changing the biotechnology industry, and an understanding of synthetic biology would enrich a student’s consideration of career choices. Becoming excited about a potential career option can also provide motivation for academic success. Our outreach is also a service to the research community, as the more students who know about synthetic biology, the more who may pursue it as a career. A greater pool of human resources can increase the quantity and quality of research

We believe that sharing one’s research with the community is an important responsibility, both to keep research accountable to the public and to open doors for the next generation to get involved. Even for those students who don’t pursue science, an exposure to what synthetic biology is allows them to make more informed, responsible choices as consumers and voters. Thus, through high school outreach, we’re setting a good example of corporate social responsibility.

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Finally, we strive to learn how to better communicate synthetic biology to students. In order to evaluate the impact of our outreach, we collect feedback forms after presentations and have an online survey.

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Ethics Debates

University of Alberta Debate

As a novel approach to human practices, we worked with eight internationally competitive debaters to produce a debate about the ethical and societal implications of developing artificially engineered organisms. The extensive experience of the debaters brings an expertise about policy issues not commonly seen among science and engineering students. The diverse background of the debaters allows a wide range of opinions to be reflected that could not have been imagined by an iGEM team alone. The format of debate allows both sides of an issue equal opportunity, and requires the use of well-reasoned arguments and evidence. Moreover, debates are fast-paced and engaging, capturing an audience’s attention. Our debates are valuable resources for educating synthetic biologists about public reactions, assessing public knowledge about genetic engineering, helping policy-makers make well-reasoned decisions, and helping the public form their own opinion of synthetic biology.

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High School Debate Outreach

Debate is a powerful tool for raising the awareness of ethical questions. We used debate for this purpose by doing a demonstration debate on the resolution "This House Supports the Development of Artificially Engineered Life" at Old Scona Academic High School, for an audience of about 80 students.

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With many new advances in synthetic biology and genetically modified organisms come many valid concerns. In particular, many have concerns over what possible threats these projects may pose to public saftey and to the saftey of the researchers themselves.

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