SynBioX Workshop for Secondary School Students


Key Questions

  1. What can arouse secondary school students' interest in synthetic biology, a field that may be unfamiliar to them?
  2. How can we introduce synthetic biology in a fun and easily understandable way?
  3. How can we lead an interesting lab tour?
  4. What hands-on experiences can we try with the students to introduce synbio concepts while having fun?

Key Findings

  1. We can make a Canva PowerPoint and ask students some open-ended questions, for example, their first impression of synthetic biology to arouse interest and encourage participation in a stress-free atmosphere.
  2. We can use famous Synbio stories to introduce the key concepts concretely.
  3. DNA extraction would be a manageable and fun experiment to conduct with secondary school students.

Key Actions

  1. Using Kahoot or Mentimeter can boost the interactiveness of the 'boring' theory parts.
  2. We can prepare the chemicals and raw materials, and rehearse the demonstration of DNA extraction early on.
  3. We may share some funny incidents we had in the lab.


      We held a mini-class, SynBioX, at United Christian College (Kowloon East), Hong Kong during the post-exam enrichment period. Our wet lab team members, Jeffrey and Daniel, first introduced Synthetic Biology and its applications, for example, recombinant DNA technology illustrated with past iGEM projects using genetically modified E. coli to degrade plastics.


      After the mini-class, Owen, our wet lab module leader, introduced the use of some important apparatus and equipment of a molecular biology laboratory.

      The laboratory of United Christian College had some E. coli with GFP expressed. Owen shone the UV light onto the plates to show the green fluorescence of the GM Bacteria.

      We also had a small workshop on DNA extraction from bananas with the secondary school students. Following the protocol prepared by us, the students have fun hands-on experience extracting DNA from bananas. After the workshop, they can take home their little bottles of DNA as a souvenir.

      The teachers of the class appreciated our efforts in bringing synthetic biology to their classrooms, the students also enjoyed learning new concepts and trying our fun experiments very much. We are delighted to have this memorable workshop with the students and hope they will bring home with them something more than the bottle of DNA - their growing interest and curiosity about synthetic biology.

SynBio Online - Podcast Series


Key Questions

  1. How can we spark interest in synthetic biology among the general public?
  2. Since we lack prior experience in podcast recording, how can we create high-quality episodes and interact with our guest speakers?
  3. Can we link the podcast episodes to our project and ask for advice from experts with a valuable chance of recording?

Key Findings

  1. We can search for professors with synthetic biology as their research interests on faculty profile databases, and read their papers to see what kind of research intrigues us.
  2. We listened to podcasts from other iGEM teams, identified the good points we liked about their podcast, and learned from them.
  3. We can interview past iGEMers with experience in creating rapid test kits.

Key Actions

  1. Sending out official invitation emails to potential guest speakers. Start writing podcast scripts, and arranging time, venue, and equipment to be well-prepared for the recording.
  2. Include introduction music, and reduce background noise as much as possible to enhance the audience's listening experience.
  3. Before or after podcast recordings, we can have a mini-consultation, introduce our project in an elevator pitch, and see if we can collect experts' feedback conducive to our project development.


Episode 1

About Professor Yong Lai

In the first episode, we are very honored to have Professor Yong Lai from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology as our guest speaker. He shared with us the prospects of Synthetic Biology in the Greater Bay Area and Hong Kong. Professor Lai is a synthetic biologist dedicated to engineering biological systems and materials to innovate living therapeutics for gut-microbiota-related diseases, such as Crohn's disease - the chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.

      He truly enjoys his research on digestive system diseases and is very passionate about motivating youngsters to learn more about synthetic biology through his exceptional example, and the guest seminars he organizes for his students. He believes Hong Kong has great potential to grow as a synthetic biology research hub with her advantage as China's bridge towards the world. In the end, he also encourages students to continue their research efforts and stay true to their dreams.

Episode 2

About Professor Huang Jiandong

In the second episode, we are so grateful to have Professor Huang Jiandong from the University of Hong Kong to share with us Synthetic Biology in Revealing Biological Principles. Professor Huang is dedicated to research using synthetic biology to create novel therapeutics for cancer, COVID-19, infectious diseases, and more.

      Professor Huang had many research breakthroughs and innovative ideas in combating various diseases that are difficult to control. For instance, he shared with us his experience of engineering intranasal spray as a virus trap to provide effective protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection. The chemical can trap and inactivate the virus in the upper respiratory tract, protecting the person from contracting SARS. Although the product could not be launched due to the end of COVID, it has great potential for the control of infectious diseases.

      Another inspiring project Professor Huang works on is the use of genetically engineering salmonella to target and inhibit the growth of glioma, a tumor that originates from the glial cells of the brain or spinal cord. With the anti-tumor effect of the specific Salmonella strain, the tumor in mice shrank in size.

      Synthetic biology can also be multidisciplinary. Professor Huang collaborates with a professor from City Univeristy to make the electronic platform. The digitally-powered antibodies would detect and notify the patient that he is infected. Professor Huang is very fond of the patterns in nature, and how SynBio can be the key to discovering them and utilizing them to create therapeutics for the betterment of healthcare.

Episode 3

      In the third episode, we are delighted to have Hsiu, Ou Ning (Owen), and Leon Ritchie Salim as our guest speakers. Owen is a very experienced iGEMer, he joined iGEM as a student member in the year 2018 in the high school track, and also in the year 2019 in the undergraduate track, and after that, he has been the advisor for the HKUST iGEM team. Leon is also an experienced iGEMer from the 2022 HKUST Fisherly Team and guides us in the wet lab and dry lab experiments as our student advisor. We chatted about their iGEM experiences. Owen expressed that high school iGEM is like building the wheel of a car while university iGEM is like building the whole car. The iGEM project at the university level is much more challenging with more freedom when compared to the high school project. Ritchie did not give up on his first attempt to join the iGEM team, and successfully got into the Fisherly team. Although Ritchie did not have prior experience in a biology lab, his chemistry lab experiences helped him pick up lab skills quickly. Both advisors mentioned the importance of being well-prepared before starting experiments, for example, knowing the positions of the reagents, and the skills and procedures we would go through. Mental rehearsal and YouTube videos would help a lot in lab performance.

      Another memorable part of iGEM for Ritchie is the Grand Jamboree. They both vividly remembered the exciting roller-coaster moments when Team Fisherly got into the finalist position. The stress before the night of the final round, the midnight phone call Owen got from an anxious iGEMer at the night… all the fear, excitement, tears, and joy culminate in the exceptional achievement of Team Fisherly. Apart from the medals and awards, Owen and Ritchie both think the bonds between advisors and student members, as well as the soft skills they gained through the challenges they overcame in iGEM, are very precious as well.

From right: Ritchie, Owen, Cherry and Noel
Episode 4

      In the fourth episode, we are lucky to have Deja and Lily to be our guests. Deja and Lily are both from the 2022 Fisherly Team, with Deja as the wet lab module leader and Lily as the hardware module leader. The Fisherly test kit is a user-friendly bioamines detection kit for smaller fish businesses. Deja and Lily have both contributed a lot to the safety design of the Fisherly test kit - the test kit is a cell-free system in a tube with an extraction buffer enclosed by the upper and lower caps. The user only needs to swab the fish with the cotton bulb, dip and twist the bulb in the extraction buffer, then drop the sample onto the lower cap. This minimizes any safety hazards due to genetically modified organisms for the users.

      Deja and Lily had been under a lot of stress in the iGEM experiments, often repeating experiments again and again hoping to see good results. It was Lily's first time leading a team of 9 people for a 10-month project, she felt a lot of weight on her shoulders. Fortunately, her teammates are all very supportive and never complained of endless meetings due to the shift from a whole cell to a cell-free system. Although the process was exhausting, Lily enjoyed the process a lot since the iGEM problem-solving process has shaped her into a confident scientist who takes up any opportunities that interest her. Deja finds joy and excitement in learning the techniques and innovative thinking methods to create new knowledge in the iGEM process. She believes that what she learned from iGEM is more important than what she achieved in iGEM. In the intensive 10-month time frame, iGEMers often struggle to balance academics and lab work. iGEM gave Deja the environment and space to push her limits and try doing self-directed research in the wet lab. Ultimately, treasuring the time during iGEM, fighting together to achieve something we have never imagined before, and having fun doing research is the best part of being an iGEMer!

Episode 5

About Professor Fei Gan

In the fifth episode, the iGEM team from Wuhan University interviewed Professor Fei Gan to learn about her synthetic biology research journey. Professor Fei Gan is a Professor of Microbiology at the School of Life Sciences, at Wuhan University. She completed her postdoctoral research at the Scripps Research Institute (USA) and the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley). She is now working on microbial energy metabolism and biosynthesis, and has discovered and revealed that cyanobacteria can use far-infrared light photorespiration to carry out oxygen-producing photosynthesis through a novel mechanism (Gan et al., Science, 2014), which is of great significance for understanding the ecological function and evolution of photosynthesis in cyanobacteria, as well as for improving photosynthesis energy utilization.

      Through interacting with Professor Gan, we deeply recognized the achievements and contributions of our predecessors in the field of synthetic biology and witnessed the continuous innovation and breakthroughs in the field of synthetic biology. At the same time, we were inspired by our teacher's advice and encouragement, which motivated us to actively learn relevant knowledge, maintain our sensitivity to new technologies, have confidence in the future of our scientific research field, and dare to challenge the unknown fields. We will continue to move forward and empower the young generation to promote the development of synthetic biology. Please check out the episode (in Mandarin) through the following link: iGEM SynBio Online - Podcast Episode with Professor Fei Gan (


      We are very glad that the series can pass on the adventurous and innovative spirit of our guest speakers. Our guest speakers shared their experiences of ups and downs in the field of synthetic biology. It is never easy to do research, but we sincerely hope listeners will enjoy the episodes, learn from distinguished scientists to take bold steps, persevere in challenges, and take the initiative to delve into the scientific fields.

Synthetic Sunday - Weekly SynBio Stories


Key Questions

  1. What social media is the most popular and easily accessible for youngsters?
  2. Since viewing wordy news is monotonous, how can we enhance the readability and attractiveness of our delivery of synthetic biology news?
  3. What kind of weekly content would our audience like to read?

Key Findings

  1. Instagram is the most widely used social media platform for young people nowadays. They have a habit of going through stories in their free time.
  2. Deliverables members are skilled in using Canva to create animated stories.
  3. Many biotechnology start-ups and research papers can be our source of Synthetic Sunday content.

Key Actions

  1. As youngsters scroll through stories, they may come across our Synthetic Sunday stories, and our posting weekly stories can let them absorb bite-size synthetic biology knowledge.
  2. IHP members search for and write up Synthetic Sunday content, Deliverables members design the stories.

Instagram Stories

      Every week, we post a series of Synthetic Sunday stories to share fascinating synthetic biology news. For example, a series about Bacteria from Antarctica. On another Sunday, we posted another series on Revolutionizing Cancer Research Using Synthetic Biology.

      For each story, we include our references in the 'Let's read more' story and mention iGEM and our members' Instagram accounts to increase views.

      The Synthetic Sunday stories are an effective medium for synbio news dissemination. From Instagram analytics, our weekly stories reach around 235 accounts, including non-followers accounts. We are delighted to see this human practice achievement and will continue our promotion efforts to engage and raise the general public's awareness of iGEM.

Booth at HKUST


Key Questions

  1. How can we raise public awareness of Fried Rice Syndrome?
  2. How can we attract people to visit our booth?
  3. How can we make the booth more interactive?
  4. What do the university community think about our test kit designs and usage?

Key Findings

  1. We can raise public awareness by pitching our idea at the booth.
  2. Make the booth more interactive by using Google Forms to encourage response.
  3. Provide snacks and souvenirs as motivators of participation.
  4. Be proactive in asking for feedback and addressing concerns about the rapid test kit.

Key Actions

  1. A majority of the visitors do not know about 'Fried Rice Syndrome', agreeing with our survey results.
  2. According to the views of a helpful visitor, apart from setting our target users as food manufacturers and distributors only, we can set up a third-party dynamic food safety monitoring system by collecting samples from different restaurants and performing our rapid tests daily. In this way, a dynamic database of food safety data can be established as a reference for community members to avoid food poisoning outbreaks due to cereulide.

      On 19-20 September, we held a booth in the academic concourse of UST to raise awareness of Fried Rice Syndrome and food safety among students, professors, and staff, promote our project, and receive practical feedback on our work. At the booth, we looped our promotion video on television, distributed leaflets, and promoted our project to passers-by.

We had around 160 visitors visiting our booth during the 2 days!

      We would first invite the passers-by to visit our booth, and then introduce our project briefly to them. If they are interested, they can follow our Instagram for more iGEM news and have a mini-quiz on their food safety knowledge through the survey. To show our gratitude for their support, we would gift them some jelly candies and team souvenirs including stickers and keychains.

One more follower!
Cereulight booth!

      Although reaching out proactively was a bit daunting at first, we learned to approach passers-by with a short question, for example, "Have you wondered if the rice you consume is safe to eat?". People usually stop and have a short chat with us if they find our project topic interesting.

People dropping by our booth!
Sharing our project to people.
leaflet (page 1)
Our leaflet design. (Page 1)
leaflet (page 2)
Our leaflet design. (Page 2)

      One time, we were so fortunate to have a student who gave some detailed constructive feedback on our project. He reminded us that food manufacturers could be reluctant to buy our test kits to test their food quality at their own cost. Our test kit could be useful for restaurant mystery shoppers to test food samples daily, with the results displayed on a website to let people know about the dynamic food safety levels of each restaurant on campus or any premises. These data could be valuable for students and community members to avoid potential food poisoning outbreaks with the launch of our third-party dynamic food safety monitoring system. His views opened our minds to see the further application possibilities of our test kit other than setting our target users to food manufacturers and distributors only.

      During the 2-day booth event, we had about 30 new followers per day. Reaching our goal of accumulating over 800 followers. The increase in followers can amplify our promotional efforts for iGEM.