Team:UM Macau/Public Engagement

Education & Public Engagement


In our project, we conducted public engagement activities to achieve the goal of abridging synthetic biology to the public. Considering that people from different backgrounds have different pre-existing knowledge and interests in absorbing new information, we designed our activities in three levels referring to the education level of targeting population, with regards to middle/high school students, undergraduate students, and the general public. Different activities were designed based on their backgrounds in the formats of workshops, summer camps, lectures, and interviews respectively. By conducting the activities, we were able to spread the basic knowledge of synthetic biology with the example of how we adopted it in constructing OPHT protein complex for nanoparticle elimination. Besides, we were able to raise awareness of the public in the importance of protecting water resources. The goals of appealing more attention from the public and addressing potential effects of nanoparticle pollution were also achieved.

Synthetic biology is one of the main methods adopted in solving biological issues. Applying the synthetic biology techniques in realistic problems is always the core of iGEM. Conducting the residential college lecture in university is one of the best ways of introducing synthetic biology to the general public. As an iGEM team formed by biomedical majored undergraduate students, we felt obliged in presenting and introducing synthetic biology to reveal its benefits and its affable face to university students. We held a residential college lecture in Ma Man Kei and Lo Pak Sam college at the University of Macau. By this chance, we also introduced nanoparticle pollution and our project as one potential solution. Students were interested in SANCE and actively in asking questions. Not only the students, the vice-rector of the University of Macau also found our project appealing and meaningful.

We conducted the DIY water purification kit workshop in two local high schools, Hou Kong High School and Sam Yuk Middle School, the two of the best secondary schools in Macau. The activity helped to enrich local students’ knowledge of water pollution as well as nanoparticle pollution and helped to raise their awareness on protecting water resources and get interested in scientific innovations. The workshop contained two parts, an introduction to water pollution, and interesting experiments of dirty water purification. The basic water purification mechanisms were learned and comprehended by students in the progress of making their own kit.

Many studies claimed that nanoparticles in the marine environment can be absorbed by living organisms which later might become the dishes on the table of local residents and potentially influence their health. Seafood product sellers in markets are the people with closest contacts to seafood products. In order to investigate whether nanoparticles would affect the quality of seafood in Macau, and collect the understanding in nanoparticle pollution from the local residents, we arranged and conducted local market interviews targeting sellers and customers in Macau local seafood markets, and 29 valid replies were collected.

The sea products they sell mostly come from the ocean potentially exposing to nanoparticle contamination. Many sellers have more than 20 years of experience, but they claimed that the quality and amount of sea product didn’t change within these 2 decades. After further inquiry, we found that this resulted from the reason that most of them have no idea that the quality of seafood products could be affected by water pollution, let alone the nanoparticle pollution. This result suggested that the potential hazard of nanoparticle pollution hasn’t been fully recognized and focused by local residents. By holding this local market interview, we were able to bring new perspectives on water pollution as well as the suggestions on seafood safety to local sellers and customers.

Synthetic biology is still a quite mysterious area for students who still study in high school or middle school. With this concern, we got involved in the high school summer camp as teacher assistants to enrich their knowledge of synthetic biology. The high school students who attended UM summer camp were invited to participate in the lecture on introducing nanoparticle pollution and synthetic biology. After the lecture, the students showed their awareness of nanoparticle pollution and raised some good questions.



iGEM 2019 UM_Macau