Team:Sao Carlos-Brazil/Public Engagement

Education & Public Engagement

Synthetic Biology is a very promising study area, which is in rapid expansion and movements a significant amount of money in today’s market. However, in Brazil, few companies are working in this area, and scientific dissemination is scarce. With this need to popularize synbio inside and out of the academy, our team has worked on many different ways of sharing synthetic biology with our local community, by organizing events, workshops and with our weekly SynBio Club meetings.

SynBio Club

The SynBio Club is a university extension project administered initially by undergraduate students in Biotechnology from Sao_Carlos-Brazil 2019 iGEM team. The project was created in the second half of 2018 and aims to disseminate synthetic biology all over the university and for the São Carlos community in general.

The idea of creating the club came from the students' need in learning and deepening our expertise on this subject, which has been crucial for our participation in this year's iGEM. This project was also very important to appeal to students from distinct study areas (Mathematics, Physics, Life Sciences, and Humanities), enabling the exchange of experiences and acknowledgments between the participants. Moreover, this experience has led us to recruit new members to the team.

In the SynBio Club, there are weekly meetings to discuss a synthetic biology topic, from molecular genetics and mathematical modeling to building biological circuits and chassis types. To underpin the discussion, team members split into groups to study the topic of the week and create a presentation as simple and dynamic as possible, with games, and challenges.

To this day the project has exceeded our expectations, having the participation of UFSCar and USP students from several undergraduate programs (Biotechnology, Biology, Physical Engineering, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Mathematics, Social Sciences), high school students and community members as well. The meetings were settled in different ways each semester. The first one was ministered by an expositive form with recourse from the MIT SynBio course, and on the second one, the participants were split into groups to develop a synbio project of their own.

Besides the meetings, SynBioClub also has organized cultural events, lectures, and workshops. The idea is that this project stays alive for years, so it can disseminate SynBio through the university and community as well as incentivize future iGEMmers.


ONOVOLAB is an innovation center located in São Carlos, Brazil, which promotes scientific dissemination, helps companies in innovation services, and connects the community with startups. The SynBio Club started a partnership with ONOVOLAB in 2019 so the club would be responsible to curate the Life Sciences' track, organizing events not only about synthetic biology but also about all life science subjects. We have organized 8 events, 5 of them in cooperation with DNA Consult, a biotechnology firm. Those events had lecturers from all regions of Brazil, and some foreigners as well.

Synthetic Biology: Perspectives and possibilities

The first Life Science Track event organized by SynBio Club on ONOVOLAB presented key synbio concepts followed by a roundtable discussion with guests with expertise in synthetic biology.

The guests were Guilherme Kundlatsch - One of the first UFSCar iGEM team founders, he was the 2016 Sheffield iGEM Team instructor and in 2017 he became Brazil iGEM ambassador. In 2018 he initiated as iGEM ambassador’s global coordinator; Otto Heringer - Former iGEM participant graduated in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry at the University of São Paulo and founder of LOTAN Agrosciences, a company that uses interference RNA technology to combat phytopathogenic fungi; and Dr. Danielle Biscaro Pedrolli - She graduated in Biological Sciences, with a Masters and Ph.D. in Applied Microbiology at Unesp, Rio Claro campus. She spent two years of her doctorate at the University of Applied Sciences in Mannheim, Germany, where she later worked as a postdoctoral fellow. She is currently a professor at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Unesp Araraquara and advisor of the SynBio Araraquara research group, and coordinator of the 2017 and 2018 Unesp Brasil iGEM teams.

Some of our team members with the guests Guilherme, Otto and Dr. Danielle

In front of an audience of 79 people, the guests spoke about their experiences with synthetic biology, as well as clarify the doubts of the audience about the future and possible turns this study area may take. At the end of the event, we also gave away a book about the history of fermentation, provided by our sponsor Fermentec

DNA Week

This year, our SynBio Club has helped to organize the second edition of the DNA Week, as a partnership with the company DNA Consult. The event happened for 5 days from 04/22/2019 to 04/26/2019, in celebration of the International DNA Day, the day of the double helix discovery. The events counted with many guests with expertise in specific areas, such as health, genetics, music, and criminalistics.

  • Genomic and Health in Brazil (04/22/2019) - Guests: geneticist Dr. Calógeras Albergaria Barbosa and DNA Consult CEO Dr. Euclides Matheucci Junior.
  • The Biology of Tomorrow (04/23/2019) - Guests: previous iGEM teams representatives.
  • We are all rare (04/24/2019) - Guests: Andrea Soares, “Mundo dos Raros” documentary producer and creator of Crossing Connection / Dr. Amélia Arcângela Teixeira Trindade, a professor from UFSCar’s Medicine department/ Dr. Adriana Medaglia, DNA Consult CTO.
  • Extracting DNA from the Crime Scene (04/25/2019) - Guests: São Carlos’s Judge Paulo César Scanavez / Dr. Adriana Medaglia, DNA Consult CTO.
  • Hearing Life: DNA and Music (04/26/2019) - Guests: conductor and artistic director of the São Pedro de São Paulo Theater, Júlio Medaglia, and the conductor of the UFSCar Experimental Orchestra, Maria Carolina Leme Joly.

Epigenetics: The Return of Lamarck?

For the second event exclusively organized by the our team, a panel was held with specialists in the area of Epigenetics, focusing on the discussion of the theme and its relation with Lamarck's evolutionary theory, as a provocation to comments that have emerged indicating that the discoveries of epigenetics would reinforce, to some extent, that the ideas proposed by Lamarckism would be correct. The discussion was mediated by the team's PI, Dr. Francis de Morais Franco Nunes.

To compose the panel, we have invited Dr. Simone Cristina Meo Niciura, a Researcher at Embrapa Southwest Livestock since 2007, who has graduated in Veterinary Medicine at São Paulo's State University and had her Masters and Doctorate in the same field by FCAV-Unesp. She has experience in Animal Reproduction, with an emphasis in Biotechnology of Reproduction and Molecular Animal Genetics, working mainly on the following areas: anthelmintic resistance, gene expression, epigenetics, and genomic imprinting. And Dr. Rafael Vilar Sampaio, Bachelor of Biological Sciences and Master of Cellular Biology by the Federal University of Pará (UFPA) and Ph.D. in Sciences from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science (FMVZ) of the University of São Paulo (USP). He has experience in epigenetics, embryology, in vitro fertilization, adult and embryonic stem cell cytology and molecular biology.

Synthetic Biology in Space

As mentioned in our Human Practices section, Dr. Ivan Gláucio Paulino Lima, the first Brazilian biologist, graduated in Brazil, to research NASA, spoke at ONOVOLAB after a meeting with us. He works at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, located in NASA's Ames Research Center, and is part of Dr. Lynn Rothschild's group, where he acts as a microbiologist. He is also the co-founder and coordinator of the Brazilian Network of Astrobiology (Rede Brasileira de Astrobiologia, RBA) and a collaborator at the Astrobiology Research Support Center, USP's agency and an official affiliate of NASA's Institute of Astrobiology (NAI).

Dr. Ivan covered the details on Power Cell's Mission (specific "mini-ecologies" to improve micro-organisms' capacities of doing useful tasks in collaboration) managed by NASA'S Ames Research Center and conceived by the 2011 iGEM team Brown-Stanford. The first results of microgravity, lunar gravity and their controls were presented.

Dr. Ivan speaking at ONOVOLAB

Zenith's Aerospace Saturday

The Aerospace Saturday is an annual event organized by Zenith Aerospace as the closure of Garatéa-E Project, which aims the development of scientific experiments by schools across Brazil. The experiments are sent on a stratospheric balloon launched during the event.

Besides the launching, the Aerospace Saturday also promotes lectures, workshops, and other scientific activities, such as project presentations from researchers from the São Carlos' area. Our team was twice invited to be part of the event, on the 2018 and 2019 editions, which occurred on August 11th and 24th, respectively.

Our 2018 workshop presentation

The synthetic biology workshop aimed to present basic concepts to high school students. In both editions, the team members gave a talk about the basic concepts of synthetic biology and proposed a challenge to the participants: crafting a biological circuit that could be used to solve a drawn problem, using either lego pieces or EVA circuit parts, made by UFSCar's 2015 iGEM Team. The participants, divided into groups, were to choose the ideal parts and assemble them correctly to complete the challenge. To make the process easier, a printed list of some BioBricks available at Registry was distributed to the participants.

2019's edition was also really important to us because we had the opportunity to collaborate with team USP_SaoCarlos-Brazil on the making of the workshop. Both teams also had the opportunity to present their projects to the participants.

Both teams with the participants of the workshop

41st Annual Renewal Reunion

So as to help to verify the applicability of our project in the fermentative processes industry, our team was invited by Fermentec to exhibit our project on the 41st Annual Renewal Reunion, that occurred on July 25th and 26th, 2019, and possibly meet potential sponsors. More than 50 representatives of Brazilian sugar and alcohol plants and 1 of a foreign factory took part in the event, a considerable quantity of ethanol producers, for both national and export industries.

Our team members at the 41st Annual Renewal Reunion

The project was presented by the team member Lucas Boldrini in a Pitch format on the second day of the event, during which he enumerated the advantages of our Astroshield yeast’s usage in industrial fermentation processes, demonstrating in numbers how much money could be saved by the companies when avoiding loss of yeast by microbial contamination.

The event granted greater visibility to the project, creating opportunities for testing our engineered strain on an industrial scale in the future, as stated in letters written by Usina Cerradinho and Fermentec, as seen below (in Portuguese).

IX FourBiotec

Four Biotec is an annual congress organized by professors and students of the Biotechnology undergraduate program at UFSCar. The event features lectures and short courses given by renowned guests, who work in various areas related to biotechnology. In addition, the congress features poster presentations.

In its ninth edition, held from August 6th to August 9th, 2019, our team took part in the presentations, showing our advances in the circuit design used in our project. The work, entitled "Biodesign of a synthetic circuit in Saccharomyces cerevisiae for the introduction of resistance to ultraviolet radiation and cell death" was widely praised by the event reviewers and received an honorable mention at the closing of the congress.

Our poster presentation at the IX FourBiotec

Honorable mention for Best Poster Presentation


During our project’s crowdfunding campaign, we had the opportunity to be interviewed multiple times, and we have used these opportunities not only to share our campaign but also to talk about our project and iGEM itself.

  • Radio UFSCar: Team members Lucas Boldrini and Lucas Oliveira had a talk with our university’s Rector, Dr. Wanda Hoffmann, which aired on June this year on Radio UFSCar. Our interview (in Portuguese) can be checked out here.
Lucas and Lucas with Dr. Wanda Hoffmann

  • Galileu Magazine: Galileu is one of the most important scientific magazines in Brazil, with thousands of monthly readers. In February, our team member Isabelle Taira was interviewed through the phone by one of Galileu's writers, in a report posted on the magazine's website and social media.
  • TV UFSCar: We have also been interviewed by our university's TV channel, TV UFSCar. For this news piece, we were filmed during our experiments in the lab, and the members Isabelle Taira and Lucas Boldrini told the interviewer more about the development of our project. The interview is available on YouTube.

  • Rádio Interdependente: Also during our crowdfunding campaign, we were invited for an interview in Rádio Interdependente. During the interview, we were also asked to choose some songs to play on the intervals of the radio program, for which we chose "Life on Mars?" by David Bowie and "Venus" by Lady Gaga, among other songs that reminded us of our project. The full interview is available on Interdependente's website.