Team:Wageningen UR/Public Engagement


Education & Engagement

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" Science now finds itself in paradoxical strife with society: admired but mistrusted... boasting remarkable advances but criticized."
-J. Michael Bishop

Bridging the knowledge gap between academia and the general public is key if we want to translate science into technology that can serve society. An important requirement for the application of synthetic biology is acceptance, and understanding is crucial in creating this acceptance. We, from the iGEM Wageningen team, have tried our best to help bridge this gap, by engaging in various ways with different societal groups to improve the understanding of synthetic biology, as well as by working on our integrated Human Practices.

For our outreach, we wanted our network to also reach beyond the groups usually targeted. Therefore, we used some unconventional networks to reach out to groups that might not immediately come to mind. We have given presentations on synthetic biology and our project at Mensa and the Freemasonry and we used Tinder and other social media to reach out to new people. We were also featured in a webarticle on an agriculture-related newsplatform. More information on our endeavors can be read in more detail below.

Next to this, we also held different presentations and engagement activities with students from high schools and our university. We gave a presentation about synthetic biology and our project to the finalists of the Dutch Biology Olympiad and to high school students participating in a "Student for a day" program. At our university, we participated in giving talks in different courses, we presented our project to new students and gave an open lunch lecture on campus.

To meet with people from the industry and academia, we attended multiple conferences on biotechnology in the Netherlands and Spain. We also met up with different iGEM teams from the Netherlands and Europe during multiple meetups to discuss and learn from each other’s projects.

Unconventional networks

Web Articles

In the beginning of August, we had an interview with the Hortipoint website about our project. This resulted in the publication of both a Dutch and an English article on their website. This article was picked up by several other Dutch agriculture-related websites: Floribusiness and After our article on the Hortipoint website, we were contacted by one of the writers of the Wageningen University paper “Resource”, even though we were already planning to contact them later in our project. They approached us for an article, which led to the publication of both a Dutch and an English article on their website. Again, these articles were shared by other Dutch websites: B&P Nieuws,, Groeneruimte and Boom in Business. It was very nice to see an interest in our project from different angles. We are also in collaboration with Hortipoint on a printed article on Xylencer and our iGEM experiences.

Social Media

  • LinkedIn

    Previous iGEM teams had not made a profile for the Wageningen team on LinkedIn. Therefore, we made a profile and a business page to connect to people who might be interested in our research. This proved very fruitful as it helped a great deal in reaching out to stakeholders and making initial contact with them. It also gave ourselves an extra channel to present our project.

  • Instagram

    The previous team made an Instagram account, on which we continued to post new content this year. On the account, we introduced all team members. Besides that, we participated in the iGEM Instagram Challenge of team Stony_Brook and in the Sustainable Development Goals challenge, which was a joint challenge by team Tuebingen, TAS_Taipei and Costa_Rica. At the 23rd of May of 2019, we had 292 followers. By the 21st of October, the number of followers had grown to reach 516 followers.

  • Facebook

    Facebook was used to share our progress over the past few months and to keep everyone interested and up to date on our project. We also participated in the one-minute challenge on Facebook from team Technion-Israel after being nominated by the Tartu TUIT team from Estonia. The aim of the challenge was to explain your project in a one-minute video. This was a good way to reach more people in an approachable way with what we are doing in our project.

  • Twitter

    We also took over the existing Twitter account on which we tried to post more serious content, since Twitter is more often used by companies. We also contacted some potential sponsors via Twitter. We used it to share our project and crowdfunding. Our project got picked up by the former Dutch minister of Finance and former president of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem (and current head of the supervisory board of Wageningen University), who tweeted about our project and crowdfunding to his over 100.000 followers. On Twitter, we had 711 followers on the 23rd of May. By the 21st of October, the number of followers had grown to 781 followers.


As part of our outreach to unusual networks, we really wanted to employ Tinder to spread the word on synthetic biology. Since phages play a central role in our project, we made a male and a female phage and gave them their own profile. Thus, our Tinder phages Salvador and Philomena came to be and set out on their quest to inform lonely singles about the wonders of synthetic biology. Early on they managed to match to some of the more curious Tinder users, hopefully opening their minds to the possibilities of synthetic biology. Sadly, Tinder seems to discriminate against phages and they were quite quickly banned. We had some good fun reaching out over Tinder, but Salvador and Philomena will have to wait until there is a more phage-friendly dating platform available.

Salvador, based on X. fastidiosa phage Salvo, on his Tinder profile. Ready to spread over internet, if he can find his host.
Philomena on her Tinder profile. She can be really good company, but some might call her a femme fatale...



Holland Bio (28th of June)

On the 28th of June we went to the Holland Bio event, an event for representatives of biotech companies. There, we were submerged in the entrepreneurial viewpoints. We talked to several people about our project and we got a lot of questions about patents. Therefore, we decided to contact a patent expert at the university later. It was very interesting to talk to several people about our project and inform them of the iGEM competition and synthetic biology.

Dutch Biotechnology Conference (22nd of May)

We had a great chance to interact with the Dutch biotechnology society at their annual conference. During this conference we had a poster pitch. A lot of interested people came by to ask questions about our project. We also talked to the other iGEM teams about their experiences and their projects. There were also interesting presentations, one of which was on Safe-by-Design. This inspired us to incorporate Safe-by-Design in our project by participating in the Safe-by-Design assignment from the RIVM.

Sebastiaan and Hetty after their presentation at the National Biotechnology Conference

SafeChassis – biosafety workshop (24th of September)

Our safety officer Ben went to the biosafety workshop "SafeChassis". The goal of this workshop was to discuss the application of genetically modified organisms and to predict the possible impact of these organisms in certain areas. The panel of the workshop included a large variety of stakeholders such as governmental institutions, regulators, industry and academic scientists. During this workshop, several guest speakers presented their work on safety, risk assessment and legislation in the application of GMOs in daily life. Furthermore, we were allowed to give a presentation about our project and especially about the main bottlenecks we have encountered. This was a big opportunity for us to discuss our project with experts in the field.

Ben at the SafeChassis biosafety workshop.

XIII Annual Biotechnological Congress (BAC) in Madrid, Spain (10th – 12th July)

We knew that X. fastidiosa is a big problem in some Southern European countries, and we were already planning on contacting stakeholders from the Spanish public administration. However, we wanted to get a sense of the opinion of leading researchers on the current status of the fight against X. fastidiosa in Spain. The BAC, a conference with young scientists as a target audience, was the perfect opportunity for us to learn from these experts and also present our novel synthetic biology approach to eradicate X. fastidiosa.

During these two days, we presented our poster and attended several talks given by researchers that work on different biotechnological fields. One of them, Dr. Aranzazu Gómez Garay, president of the Asociación Española de Sanidad Vegetal (AESaVe), gave a presentation on biosafety and plant health. She introduced us to the concept of biological control, which is the use of living microorganisms to control plagues. This is, in fact, the basis of Xylencer’s approach to combating X. fastidiosa.

During the Q&A part of the presentation, a farmer whose crops have been affected by X. fastidiosa in the Spanish region of Alicante asked Mrs. Gómez about her opinion on the current eradication measures against the pathogen. To that, she replied that many European countries that are not affected by the plant pathogen still support what she considers to be ancient measures, such as the cutting down of all trees in a demarked area.

From this conference we concluded that in Spain some researchers are supporting the use of other microorganisms to control plagues, which differs from the more mainstream use of phytopathogens.

Alba and Santi at the Annual Biotechnological Congress in Madrid, Spain, presenting our project poster.