Team:IIT-Madras/Public Engagement



India is very diverse with all the culture, languages and traditions, so is our Institute. Then why not use it to spread science?

The Language Project is not merely a social outreach arm for the iGEM IIT Madras team, it is a perennial endeavour to bridge the disparity between the haves and the have nots in India. We aim to communicate basic concepts in biological science in layman terms with cool images. We started with the idea of making the general public aware of basic concepts of genetics and molecular biology to generate enthusiasm and interest towards this vast, fascinating field.
As of now, we have created 84 videos in English and 8 Indian languages (Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Gujarati and a few others). We have also collaborated with fellow iGEM teams and made videos is several (28) foreign languages (French, Mandarin, Malay, Spanish, Polish, Italian, Arabic, Korean, Persian, Catalan, Bosnian, Chinese, Turkish, Lithuanian) and other native Indian languages (Tulu, Assamese, Sanskrit, Urdu, Bhojpuri). All the figures and illustrations in the videos are hand-drawn by our team members.

The topic covered so far are as follows -
  • Introduction to Synthetic Biology (32 languages)
  • Polymers 1.0 explaining DNA& RNA (15 videos)
  • Polymers 2.0 explaining Proteins (10 videos)
  • Replication and Transcription (9 videos)
  • Central Dogma and Translation (7 videos)
  • Genetic Code and Mutations (7 videos)
  • Evolution 1.0 (4 videos)


Although access to the internet has increased exponentially in India, our reach via YouTube was constrained. As we want to spread our messages primarily amongst school children, we decided to design and distribute a series of comic strips that explains simple concepts of biotechnology. Our first edition, which is ready to be published, focusses on “Central Dogma of Life and molecular aspects of Sickle cell anaemia ” - The GeneY Theory. The script was written by our team members and was verified with our friends and professors from our department. All the illustrations are hand-drawn by our team members. Yes, we are pretty good at this! ;)


Teaching is always fun! That’s when we learn better. Don’t we?
We also conducted a basic BioBrick game for the kids, which goes like this. We ideate three problem statements which have potential applications based on Synthetic Biology. We then distributed a set of cards with tags and description of biobricks and parts. Students were asked to discuss the purpose/application of the card that they possess and order themselves such that they come with a novel solution for the given problems. This way, they were able to learn better about biobrick assembly and the idea of ideating problems and solutions.
We think we might have inspired a few fellas to take up Genetic Engineering in the long run. Either way, it was fun!


The Language Project team members were enthusiastic about collaborating with the National Service Scheme members for a joint project. We jointly organised school visits, where the only motive behind the sessions was to inculcate interests in biology and allied fields deep inside the kids. The students were very interested and in turn, fascinated to learn about the whats, whys, and hows of the genetic material. This way, we were able to see the impact that teaching and learning holds, and how deep it could influence kids’ abilities. We thank iGEM and the NSS team of IIT Madras for giving us this opportunity of venturing into the classrooms.
Other outcomes of this collaboration? The Language Project team members are now contemplating of becoming school teachers... What say?


With an enormous department for Biological Sciences and Engineering, which has two blocks dedicated to the exciting research that happens within, it is certainly not possible get a flavour of everything that is going on.
iGEM IIT Madras to your rescue!
We hosted an intra-departmental event, Biotech Laboratory Day, which consisted of presentations by PhD students from different laboratories in the department. The event, conducted on 14th September 2019, was the perfect avenue to spread awareness about the kind of research that happens within our department and also for potential sponsors to display their products and instruments. The primary aim of this event was to promote the exchange of ideas amongst labs in the department and increase awareness amongst undergraduates and the MTech freshers about current fields of research.


Cool Bio, Cool People everywhere! But a cool place to discuss, debate and discover? Yes!
Biotech Research Club can be thought of as a Dead Poets Society, except that our meetings happen every Tuesday, 18:00 hrs at BT108 (a classroom), Block I, Department of Biotechnology, and the only sort of oath that we take is to share and enjoy even the minute aspects of Biotechnology. Members of the iGEM 2019 team (Sankalpa V, Sathvik A, Sahana G) set up this club which now serves as a space to discuss new ideas, work done by students at their internships, or regarding any project that they have been working on and exciting ideas in the world of biotechnology and its allied fields.
The sessions conducted so far are listed below.
  1. 30th July 2019 was when we had our first meet. The session was inaugurated by Prof. Karthik Raman, who is also into Synthetic and Systems Biology.
    1. Work Presentation - Sankalpa V
    2. Paper Presentation - Sathvik A - Neuronal Small RNAs control behaviour transgenically.
  2. 6th August 2019
    1. Work Presentation - Srinath Muralidharan
    2. Paper Presentation - Sai Guha - Mimicry in butterflies: co-option and a bag of magnificent developmental genetic tricks
  3. 13th August 2019
    1. Work Presentation - Sahana G - Computational Cellular Neurophysiology.
    2. Paper Presentation - Sahana G - An Amplitude code transmits information at visual synapses.
  4. 20th August 2019
    1. Work Presentation - Sowmya Manoja - Chronobiology using Drosophila as a model organism.
    2. Paper Presentation - Burhanudin Sabuwala - Biochemical adaptations in bacterial chemotaxis.
  5. 17th September 2019
    1. Work Presentation - Mugdha Mohkhedkar - Wayne's in vitro model of Hypoxia for Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
    2. Paper Presentation - Nandakumar - Chromatin remodelling.
    3. 24th September 2019
      • Work Presentation - Roshni Shetty - Vision in planarian flatworms.


An agar art competition was organised in March 2019 as a collaborative effort between iGEM IIT Madras and Biotech Students Association, IITM. Conducted as a part of Biofest 2019 (the annual festival of dept of biotechnology IITM), the competition engaged 112 participants from 15 colleges in and around Chennai, for two consecutive days. A member of our team co-headed the Streax organising team. We provided the participants with RFP transformed E.coli colonies and contributed to ensure the smooth conduction of the competition. The two days of competition saw students from varying academic backgrounds and age groups. It was a joy to introduce physics, mechanical and electrical engineering students to agar art and the world of synthetic biology!


India is very diverse with all the culture, languages and traditions, so is our Institute. Then why not use it to spread science?
We were curious about how aware people from different backgrounds are about synthetic biology. As a part of Public engagement we conducted a sketching event based on the theme “Synkranti - the synthetic biology revolution” and provided the participants with a few interesting topics like “Synthetic Biology ~ creating the future” , “Mutations”, “Evolution ~ The how? of our existence”. This event saw participation from within and outside the institute. We are featuring a few of the cool art pieces on our wiki! It was interesting to see what synthetic biology means for people from varied backgrounds.


We initiated “The Language Project” with a strong belief that collective efforts towards popularising science can definitely bear fruits. To extend our reach and join those who are working towards the same goal of communicating science in India, we collaborated with from “SciRio” from Bangalore.
SciRio is an initiative to actively engage academia, industry, healthcare sector and policy research organisations to effectively communicate the utility of science education and research to the public and encourage policy change.
This collaboration was an effort to augment and expand our efforts in the laboratory as “Phyte Club” fighting against cancer. Our team members translated the article - “India in the cross-hairs of breast cancer” into multiple Indian languages, namely - Tamil, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu, Hindi. The articles are in the process of being published on the official SciRio website. We thank the SciRio team for providing us an opportunity to collaborate with them.


It is never boring to do beautiful experiments. They always cheer you up, especially if you are a first-timer!
This workshop was held by our team to introduce first-year undergraduates to the world of lab work. It began with an explanation of the common reagents used for this process and their respective functions, followed by hands-on experience. The first years were divided into small groups, each given their own set of reagents to try and isolate DNA from a mashed banana. For many, it was the first time they were able to visualize DNA, making it a very interesting experience!


Most of the time, we get inspired. But sometimes, we are given the opportunity to inspire! Addressing hundreds of people is a whole new experience, and this was given to us in two different scenarios.

Biofest Open House presentation

Biofest, the annual technical festival of the Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras, promotes and conducts numerous events aimed to enlighten the students of all spheres of education in the field of Biotechnology. Biofest open house is an event to give students exposure to research work done by various labs in the biotechnology research labs. Our team also got an opportunity to present about last year’s project in front of students came to visit biofest from all over south India.

CFI Open House

Centre for Innovation (CFI) is a ‘Student Lab’ at IIT Madras. CFI is home for a lot of technical clubs and various competition teams. The CFI Open House is the perfect stage to present any co-curricular project that we had done throughout the year at our institute. We presented the Language Project Initiative, and other iGEM projects to different categories of people, including professors and teachers from various institutes and schools across the nation, students from other institutes, friends and family. We publicized our work and received valuable feedback from all the attendees.


It is always valuable to receive inputs and funds. Isn’t it?
The Mehta Family Foundation works with the objective of empowering people via education and improved health. Over the years, the Foundation has funded many healthcare and education projects around the world, including Bhupat and Jyoti Mehta School of biosciences at IIT Madras. The iGEM team met with Mehta family on 2 Feb 2019, during 3rd PAN IIT biotech meet at IIT Madras and interacted with them to get valuable inputs about the team’s activities. The team members briefed the family about ongoing iGEM projects, our past work, future plans and received encouraging feedback. We also thanked them for their support throughout the years of our participation in iGEM competition.


The Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India met the iGEM Team when he had visited IIT Madras to attend Shaastra, our institute’s annual technical festival. He has been extremely supportive of our Language Project initiative and has also re-tweeted some of our twitter posts. He encouraged us to continue this noble venture in science communication and has been aiding our team in multiple ways.