Team:Calgary/Human Practices


University of Calgary




We have reached the seventh and final stop of our tour of the the University of Calgary iGEM team wiki. Human practices this year took on the challenge of interacting with all different levels and groups of the local Calgary community. Through fundraising we were able to target both local and national corporate networks. Ethics introduced a novel approach to examining ethical implications of Synthetic Biology. Meanwhile marketing raised the visibility of iGEM as a premiere education program through our media coverage and outreach activities. Additionally our educational outreach activities were instrumental in promoting synthetic biology to the next generation of potential researchers!

So now that you've seen the multiple facets of our project, please click HERE to see what we've been up to recently!



In order to form a synthetic biology community, it is very important to involve certain segments that would play a significant role in community formation. These segments include the large Corporate Sector (interest lies in funding and thus more research and innovations) and the Education Sector (involvement encourages more research and development in the field). Both segments play a critical role in sustaining the future of synthetic biology.

However, attracting interest from these two sectors of our community is not an easy task. The majority of the population in these segments probably have never heard of the new and emerging field of synthetic biology. Furthermore, there has not been much done about the ethical issues surrounding synthetic biology, which could raise questions concerning the potential harms and benefits of the field. These concerns are some of the communication barriers that stand between the corporate and education sectors, and the field of synthetic biology. Although, the complete removal of these barriers is impossible, their impact of these communication barriers could be significantly reduced. This reduction in the impact could lead to greater involvement of the education corporate sectors in the field of synthetic biology.

Keeping these considerations in mind, our University of Calgary iGEM team tailored its approach towards the human practices aspect of our project in a way that would try to reduce the impact of these communication barriers and therefore would lead to greater involvement of the education and corporate sectors in the field of synthetic biology. And as mentioned above, these segments would play a pivotal role in the formation of a synthetic biology community. In order to increase the impact of our human practices approach, we divided our human practices team into three areas namely ethics, marketing and, education and outreach. Each area would have its own individual focus but in the end, their goal would be to work towards the formation of a synthetic biology community. Our University of Calgary iGEM team strongly believes that it is very important for these three areas to interact with each other because all these fields are interrelated. Since the formation of a synthetic biology community was our University of Calgary iGEM team’s long term goal, we assigned each area specific short term goals and milestones that would be accomplished before the iGEM Jamboree. The following is a brief summary of the goals of the three areas of our Human Practices aspect of our project:


The University of Calgary iGEM ethics team focused on two major components this year: 1) Written Paper 2) Ethics Conference The written paper examined the varying issues that surround the emerging field of synthetic biology. The main areas that we focused on are environmental, economical, ethical, legal and social issues that arise in synthetic biology. Some of these issues include:

* What beneficial and detrimental effects can result from these biological developments? For example, if a biological approach is taken in the oil and gas industry, what kind of environmental and economical effect will this decision lead to?

* What kind of ethical issues arise from this new emerging field?

* Should these biological circuits be patented? What governing structure should society have for monitoring these developments?

The issues above just highlight some of the issues our team decided to explore. The ethics conference was held in Second Life. The public can now contribute and express their concerns and opinions regarding the issues that surround synthetic biology. Our Second Life project is intended to provide an educational platform for molecular and synthetic biology. By holding an ethics conference in SL, we hope that the public is better informed of the issues that surround biology. This will also be a creative format to explore issues and allow the open discussion of ethics. Anyone from anywhere can use this service after our island has been opened to the public.


The University of Calgary iGEM outreach team had a main focus of raising the profile of synthetic biology in Alberta. Our goal was to expose the public to not only the University of Calgary's iGEM project and competition but also synthetic biology as a general topic. This segment is in charge of getting our message out to the public. This will ensure the continual growth of synthetic biology especially in Alberta. This year, we raise the awareness of synthetic biology in Alberta by:

* Creating informative sessions for high school students: Exposure to these young minds can help promote the field of synthetic biology and have potential candidates in future research in these fields.

* Holding a Summer Camp for high school students: This camp was aimed to expose high school students to the work that goes behind molecular biology research. Some of the activities that the students are able to perform are PCRs, Restriction Digest, Gel Electrophoresis, Cloning, etc. Not only do they gain a general understanding of molecular biology, but they also get exposed to the work that the University of Calgary is involved with.

* Campus Fair at the University of Calgary: People with varying ages attended this fair. Our main goal for this event was to expose synthetic biology to Albertans, particularly the project that we are involved with this year. We created some fun activities (pipetting contest, artistic bacterial construction) for the younger crowd. For the older audience, we exposed them to the University of Calgary iGEM project and explained to them about what we do as a team. This will in hope provoke some interests in this field, for the continual growth of synthetic biology in Alberta.

* Collaborative project with UChicago: Both teams aim to create an outreach kit for future iGEM teams in the competition.


The goals of our marketing team included attracting the corporate sector’s interest in synthetic biology, iGEM and our project, and raising sustainable amount of funds for our University of Calgary iGEM team. We commenced our marketing campaign by writing up a business plan that highlighted our project description for 2009 and our goals and milestones that we hope to achieve.

We also organized a sponsorship package that highlighted the past achievements and accomplishments of our previous University of Calgary iGEM teams and also gave a description of our 2009 University of Calgary iGEM project.

Our University of Calgary iGEM team was able to raise more than $100,000 dollars for our project this year. Our sponsors range from several departments from the University of Calgary to research and development organizations, and oil and gas companies.