Team iGEM IIT Madras believes education is the strongest tool one can possess to combat the problems that the world is facing today. Throughout the course of our project, we conducted events targeting audiences from university students and newly joined freshers to school students to teach them about basic synthetic biology concepts and apply the knowledge they’ve accumulated to solve a crisis. Apart from this, we have continued the Language Project started by Team iGEM IIT Madras in 2018 by translating educational videos on our YouTube channel to break the barrier that language creates for information spread. We have also held hands-on sessions for school students to create bio-art and teach them about bioethics to pique their interest in synthetic biology and create the problem-solvers of tomorrow.

The Language Project

The project kicked off in 2018, as presented in our previous attendance for the iGEM jamboree. Building on that, we continued with a COVID-19 awareness series during the years of lockdown, filling the vacancy of informative videos in regional languages. There was a widespread epidemic of misinformation, to which the iGEM team uploaded a video series on the various vaccines to combat. Considering its honorable motivations, we reinstated the project this year as an extension of our educational initiatives. The team searched for an open-source channel from which we could source the highest-quality videos to translate. After careful consideration, we chose the HarvardX channel and a set of videos. The videos dealt with simple high school biology topics, detailing the energy metabolism in the cell, the working of synapses, and the concept of evolution.

We hired a team of translators to do the job and sourced the software for the audio recording. The original English video was translated into four languages: Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu in simple, easy-to-understand vocabulary, with the comprehensive animations of the videos serving as a perfect aid.

We further conducted a survey of our campus, which served as a perfect threshold due to the diversity of students from across the country. We got a total of 104 responses for the survey we conducted to assess the usefulness of the Language Project. Out of 104, Malayalam was the mother tongue for 32 respondents, Tamil for 25 respondents, Kannada for 14 respondents, Telugu for 10 respondents, and Hindi for 9 respondents. The age of respondents varied from 15 to 74, with a majority under 20.

Most respondents faced difficulties comprehending technical terms in their mother tongue due to a lack of uniformity in terms or terminology. Most felt they were better able to understand in their mother tongue. Some suggestions included explaining terms used clearly, using simplified language, and accompanying explanations with animation for better understanding.

We plan to implement methods to translate the technical terms in a simpler way, and aim to extend the reach of this project to new frontiers, to aid as much of the public as possible. The primary aim of this project was to communicate various biology topics, with a particular focus on fundamentals, to members of the public who needed a better level of English knowledge. This would serve to expand the frontiers of biology beyond a constrained audience and generate an interest in the subject.

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School Visit

Engaging students in Bio Art and Bioethics

We, iGEM IIT Madras, strongly believe that education is the only way to empower self and society. In this mission of introducing synthetic biology to middle and high school students to educate them about the immense potential and the advancements going on currently, we organized a half day visit for the students of Chennai Public School, housed inside our very own Institute, to show them the various facilities in the Department of Biotechnology.

We started off the day with a short information session, where we presented synthetic biology through very simple slides and gave them a gist of genetic engineering. This was followed by an interactive session in which the students got to know about various fields of Biotechnology and exciting developments in the field like CRISPR-Cas.

We then proceeded to introduce them to microbiology lab techniques following a session on Good Lab Practices. A simple streaking experiment was demonstrated to them by our lab members after which all the students tried it on their own. Some students even tried their hand at some Bio Art! The results of which were later shown to them after 24 hours of incubation.

As responsible scientists and engineers, it is important to understand ethical practices and follow them religiously. We planned out an informal debate to bring up various caveats in ethics, especially concerns of gene modification and consent. Several students keenly participated in the debate and brought up very insightful points. We were moved by their conviction and clarity.

To end the day on a high note, we distributed some goodies for them to keep as souvenirs. The students also had the chance to have lunch amidst the greenery of the campus! The feedback we received was hugely positive. The students got to have a fun and informative time. We plan to conduct more such visits, especially for schools in underdeveloped regions.

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SynBio Auction

Engaging in playful activities can be one of the most efficient ways to learn. People are likely to retain more when they are actively involved in engaging and enjoyable activities. Keeping this in mind, iGEM IIT Madras hosted an engaging game event centered around synthetic biology, designed to be both informative and beginner-friendly. We combined educational content with an interactive challenge and accessible explanations, ensuring that even participants with no prior knowledge of synthetic biology could enjoy and learn from the experience. 

Participating teams were given a challenge: An unexpected outbreak of malaria on an ambitious Mars expedition. Far from home, with only a few resources at hand, it was time for synthetic biologists to save the day.  After deliberation the synthetic biologists came up with two antimalarial drugs : artemisinin and quinine which they could produce by genetic engineering the hosts they brought with them from Earth. Additionally, as artemisinin could not be secreted in sufficient quantities, they had to develop a circuit so that it could be administered as probiotic.

A catalog of chassis, parts and vectors were provided, using which the teams had to come up with a solution to the problem at hand. The interesting twist was the auction, for which the teams had to bid and trade for the cataloged components, all the while making sure to stay within the given budget. With a limited number of parts and many teams competing to get them, the excitement and the energy of the room rose as the participating teams not only bought parts in the auction but also traded amongst themselves. It was a delight to see each and every participant being actively engrossed in this friendly competition.

At the end of the building the genetic circuit, teams had to give a short presentation elucidating their solution and rationale behind it. Since, the main motivation behind the event was to bring people closer to synthetic biology, participants received a comprehensive individual evaluation of their solutions, along with constructive feedback to address any gaps in their reasoning or information. Needless to say, the event managed to ignite a newfound interest in synthetic biology among many young undergraduates through an interactive game.

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Panel Session with AstraZeneca’s Senior Leaders

Artificial intelligence (AI) is currently transforming the landscape of biologics and drug discovery, facilitating research acceleration, target enhancement, and drug repurposing. At iGEM IIT Madras, we firmly believe that discussions centered around AI in the realms of biology and drug discovery are indispensable in harnessing its potential and catalyzing innovative solutions within the healthcare and biotechnology sectors.

Our engagement with distinguished leaders, esteemed professors, and fellow students in the domain of AI and machine learning convergence with biologics and drug discovery was exemplified during a visit by a prominent delegation from AstraZeneca to our campus. This delegation featured dignitaries such as Dr. Puja Sapra, Senior Vice President for Biologics and Tumor Targeted Delivery, Ms. Anna Asberg, Vice President for R&D, IT, and Ms. Hebe Midlemiss, Director, AI and Product Strategy, who spearheaded discussions during the offline event.


The event offered a platform for students to submit synopsis proposals on a range of pertinent topics, including:
1) Unleashing the Potential of Biologics through AI, ML, and Bioinformatics.
2) Revolutionizing Drug Discovery through AI and in silico Methods
3) The Convergence of Synthetic Biology and Precision Medicine.
4) In silico Approaches for Protein Engineering.

Following a rigorous evaluation process by the AstraZeneca team, the top three submissions were chosen, and the selected students had the privilege of presenting their research during the onground event in IIT Madras.

On September 18th, the AstraZeneca team arrived at IIT Madras for the highly anticipated offline event. The event commenced with the students presenting their selected synopses, followed by an insightful Q&A session with the judging panel, which included members of the AstraZeneca team.


Subsequently, a panel discussion was held on the subject of unlocking the potential of biologics through AI, ML, and Bioinformatics. This discussion was chaired by Dr. Puja Sapra and Ms. Anna Asberg, alongside Prof. Karthik Raman and Prof. Meiyappan Lakshmanan from the Department of Biotechnology at IIT Madras, and students from the departments of Computer Science and Biotechnology. It served as a platform for a rich exchange of insights into the current applications of AI/ML in biology and the promising future prospects.

DEBATE - Does Science Drive Technology or is it the other way?
The event's highlight was an engaging debate session, moderated by Ms. Hebe Middlemiss, where participants, including the AstraZeneca team, professors, and students, passionately debated whether science drives technology or vice versa. Both sides presented compelling arguments, ultimately arriving at a consensus that science plays a pivotal role in enabling technology to drive research forward.

To conclude the event, prizes were awarded to the winners of the presentation segment, and memorable photos were captured with the AstraZeneca team, marking a successful and enlightening event.

An Introductory session on Genetic Circuits

As a part of our education and public outreach initiatives, we organized an introductory educational event about genetic circuits. The event was planned to be entirely beginner friendly and was divided into two parts: an interactive presentation and an immersive problem statement for attendees to reinforce their newly acquired concepts and knowledge.

The presentation was aimed at building upon concepts from level zero. We went over basics of molecular biology like DNA structure, complementary base pairing, the central dogma, the genetic code and transcriptional regulation. This was done to bring everyone on the same page prior to the discussion on genetic circuits.The latter part of the presentation involved introducing simple examples like a protein generator, an inverter, and the toggle switch. The discussion then continued to acquaint the attendees with synthetic genetic logic gates, the repressilator and the edge detector.

A simple exercise was given to the participants for them to apply their recently learned concepts on genetic circuits, it also served as an outlet for them to acquaint themselves with the iGEM registry of parts. The challenge involved designing a genetic circuit using the iGEM Registry of Parts to build a biosensor sensitive to copper contamination in water.

Applications of genetic circuits in synthetic biology were discussed in great depth along with the importance of synthetic biology in solving real world problems. This was crucial in helping the attendees truly appreciate the power of synthetic biology.

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Freshman Orientations

As a part of our outreach initiative to spread awareness about synthetic biology and its applications among freshers, we conducted two events in collaboration with Centre for Innovation, IIT Madras; the club weekender and CFI orientation, with the objective of introducing the newcomers to the various competition teams within the institute.

We started the interaction with a concise introduction to synthetic biology and its growing importance in tackling real world problems. Subsequently, we introduced them to the iGEM competition and provided a brief overview of both our past accomplishments through previous projects and our ongoing project. The students were encouraged to share their thoughts, ask questions, and express their interests in synbio or iGEM.

Further, we discussed how the newcomers can explore synbio and be a part of the iGEM team within the institute and provided contact information and resources to help them take the next steps toward getting involved.

Synthetic Biology for Prospective IITM Students

As part of an orientation program for aspiring IITM students, team iGEM had the opportunity to showcase the product of our yearlong efforts to a team of enthusiastic young minds, and introduce them to the world of synthetic biology. As a team representing the cutting edge biological innovation, it was our privilege to demonstrate to our peers and aspirants just what iGEM and more broadly, synthetic biology, entailed. Moreover, being able to inspire such a young and inquisitive crowd and being able to bond with them, sharing stories of common experiences in JEE made this event that much more personal for all of us. Overcoming the inherent stigma towards biology within an engineering framework was a hurdle all of us at iGEM IITM had to face at some point within our campus lives. Therefore the opportunity to defend our work, and by extension display the sheer extent and unimaginable capability of “bio”-tech enabled us to change quite a few minds on their perspective towards biological engineering as a field.