Team:Marburg/Public Engagement

P U B L I C   E N G A G E M E N T

Hessian Day

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Fig.1 - (Left) Our team member Michael explains how the pH value of chemicals can be easily determined using red cabbage juice. (Right) Willi Weitzel successfully extracted DNA out of pepper.

For this year’s Hessentag we went to Bad Hersfeld to represent our iGEM project and the SYNMIKRO of the Philipps-University of Marburg. 862.000 people joined the Hessentag 2019. This makes the Hessentag to the biggest event in Hessen where many different topics are represented, like art, music, sports, animal welfare, nature or science. Under the motto „Hessen schafft Wissen“ (eng.: Hesse creates knowledge), we introduced young researchers and other interested people to scientific experiments and the basics of (Synthetic) Biology. This project was supported by LOEWE, the state research field of Hesse.

We taught how to read the genetic code, how to do microscopy, had a little puzzle to solve, showed pH indication at the example of red cabbage and extracted DNA out of pepper.

On the first day we shared our area with an informatic-engineering group of Darmstadt. Luckily on the second day we had the stage for ourselves. Due to the great weather a huge amount of people stopped at our location to listen attentively to the molecular background of our experiments.

Also on the second day, the very famous presenter Willi Weitzel from Germany's TV show „Willi wills wissen“ visited our booth and extracted the DNA out of pepper, successfully.
We gained great feedback not only from the kids but also from their parents who looked sometimes more amazed than their children. On the Hessentag we laid the foundation for the upcoming generation of synthetic biologists.
Many thanks to Tanja Desch who organized the booth for us including all that’s part of it.

March 4 Science

march 4 science
Fig.2 - Annsophie and Wihan participating in the march 4 science in Frankfurt.

Origin of the march and Marburg's involvement
The march for Science is a protest march started in 2017 in Washington D.C. to stress the importance of science in society. More than one million people participated in the first march that took place in 2017 in cities all over the world.
We at iGEM Marburg have joined this coalition and in 2019 we continued this tradition by joining 200 other people in Frankfurt’s edition of the march on 4th May 2019. The importance of this movement was further stressed with an opening speech from Angela Dorn-Rancke, minister of art and science of the hessian state.

Why we do it and the impact of our action
We as an iGEM team understand that our present and future work will help shaping society. Thus, we always consider whether our projects are responsible and good for the world. The science march not only presents a chance to show solidarity with good scientific practice but also an opportunity to engage with the general public about our research and iGEM. Our team members got involved in conversations about iGEM and potential applications of genetic engineering with other fellow marchers. Through this we could listen to their thoughts and concerns and discuss possible solutions with them. It is our conviction that only through continuous exchanges with the general public scientists can make an impactful project for a better world.

Gruppenbild mit Major Diskussion
Fig.3 - (Top) Group photo of our team with mayor Thomas Spies (sixth from the right) in front of the town hall. (Bottom) Discussion with mayor Dr. Thomas Spies (left-hand side).

Mayor Meeting

Meeting with the mayor of Marburg to talk about the future of iGEM

On 17th July 2019 our team visited the town hall on invitation of mayor Dr. Thomas Spies. We presented our project for this year’s iGEM competition and discussed about establishing the iGEM project in Marburg, which becomes an inherent part of the University of Marburg. The mayor’s reaction to our project was really excited and willingly to support our project.

We talked about how the iGEM project can be supported financially in the long term. We discussed how much is needed for a year of iGEM including the laboratory and competition costs. The city Marburg and district Biedenkopf would support us financially. Furthermore, they would help us with a donations circle, where the future iGEM Teams could raise money with sponsoring partners, who would like to support the project for long-term. There are many scientific companies in Marburg, so it would be great to collaborate with them for long term. Another point in the meeting was the founding of a society, which will make it easier for the iGEM Teams with sponsoring and the debureaucratization. The city will also help us with this project and the lawyer from the city would aid us with the foundation of the charter. An important point about the future planning are interiors, that can be used from the iGEM Teams for long-term. This would be a group room for the iGEM teams, where we can work and have meetings, a storage room for the labware and devices and an open lab where the iGEM team can do their research on the project.

Additionally, we talked about an annual meeting at the end of a year where the iGEM teams can summarize their project and present it to the publicity and make some advertisement for the future teams. The mayor thinks it’s really important to bring our project and Synbio to publicity and the region in the heart of germany, and also offered us his help with the press. Despite there is a lot to do in the future we made the first step to establish iGEM in our town and are looking for a bright future for the upcoming iGEM teams.

Press Releases

Advertising iGEM and our project in press
During this iGEM year we used several opportunities to present our project with its goals and iGEM itself. Therefore, our corporate partners published articles to appreciate and highlight the importance of standardization and working with phototrophic organisms.

Emphasizing our project on Eurofins
With Eurofins as an important partner of the laboratories in the MPI, they were very interested in our project. Together with Dr. Andreas Ebertz we wrote an article about our project, targets and iGEM itself. This article was then published on the Eurofins website. Thereby, we paved the way for future collaborations with Eurofins. We are very thankful for this support and hope to enjoy upcoming cooperations.

Writing a blog post for Promega
We had a very cordial relationship to Promega this year. Margarethe Schwarz, the area manager of sales in our region, approached us in the beginning of the year to learn more about our project. She was very excited to hear about our plasmid purification project and offered us generous support, this eventually evolved into the biggest corporal collaboration for us. We had the chance to post on the official blog and decided to tell our story of how we refined the plasmid purification, with all its ups and downs. We also had the chance to take over Promegas Instagram account for a week so we could advertise our collaboration to other Promega partners.

Meeting with the administrator of the local chamber of commerce and engineering
We met with Oskar Edelmann, the administrator of the IHK (Industrie und Handelskammer Kassel-Marburg) to get a better foothold in local businesses. He was very interested in listening to an outline of our project and had great ideas for how to better include iGEM into the local business networks. We can’t thank him enough for his thoughts about and advice for our sponsoring and advertising strategy.

Interview with Michael Lange from Deutschlandfunk
Before our panel discussion we gave a short interview to Michael Lange from Deutschlandfunk who acted as our presenter as well. He regularly reports about the iGEM competition after the Giant Jamboree, so will he do this year. In November the winning team was announced together with their project. At that time, our interview was published as well.