Laboratory safety and security are significant to ensure both the progress of synthetic biology and the safety of those who undertake it. Although synthetic biology has been a growing field, it has been receiving less spotlight compared to other fields in the area. Due to it often operating in the shadow of more established fields, laboratories as well as safety and security lessons regarding synthetic biology are generally lacking. Within this context, our team has focused on enhancing laboratory safety within the Seoul-Korea team. We have extended our contributions beyond our team, aiming to improve safety in school laboratories and our own laboratory where we conduct experiments. Through taking online education, making guidelines and checklists for laboratories including our own, taking surveys and interviews in schools and more, our team contributed to improving safety standards in the field.

LMO education and certificate

Every member of the Seoul Korea team completed online lectures provided by the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology. Through this process, our team members were able to be thoroughly educated regarding safety measures within laboratories. With the information obtained from attending lectures, team members were able to not only improve safety conditions in the laboratory but also educate fellow students regarding safety in the laboratory, particularly during the offline camp.

Fig.1. Certificates received for taking online lectures, including 2023 Accident Cases and Safety Management, 2023 Biology, and 2023 Education for R&D LMO Researcher at Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology

Offline Camp Safety Rules in Lab

Prior to the experiment lessons during the offline camp, we took steps to familiarize students with safety protocols within the laboratory settings. Our goal extended beyond mere accident prevention, as we aimed to raise awareness regarding general safety and security in laboratories as well, which we believe is equally significant as the scientific experiments. We distributed the safety protocols to the students, which included wearing laboratory wear and gloves, electronics avoiding contact with water, not storing drinks and food in the refrigerator, and more, and explained each of the points. This prevented students, who have limited prior experience in offline laboratory environments, from potential accidents, ensuring their safety throughout the entire experiment. Moreover, It also helped promote the significance of safety and security as part of scientific experimentation.

Fig.2. Safety Rules in the Laboratory (distributed during the offline camp, left: Original, right: Translated)


Our team members made checklists, guidelines, and forms regarding safety and security in laboratories, in Korean and English. The categories include Status of Biosafety Accident Report of LM Pathogen For Test Study, Sharp Tools Management, What to Do in case of a lab accident, Regulations on Laboratory Waste Management, Genetically Modified Organism Research Facility Management and Operation Manual, and LMO Information Manual. Using these checklists and guidelines students in the Seoul-Korea team were able to evaluate and improve laboratory safety in our own lab. Laboratory safety inspections and guidelines are essential for identifying and preventing potential hazards. These forms are used to ensure students’ adherence to regulations and procedures in the laboratory and to maintain a safe environment.

Fig.3. Genetically Modified Organism Research Facilities Checklists (Top: Management and Operation of GMO Research Facilities, Bottom: LMO Information Form)

Fig.4. Status of Biosafety Accident Report of LM Pathogen For Test Study

Fig.5. A member of the Seoul-Korea team using checklists and forms to ensure safety in the laboratory

School Laboratory Safety Survey

Our team surveyed the International School students in South Korea regarding laboratory safety in their schools:

Fig.6. Students’ awareness of safety guidelines and protocols

Most students (at least 75% of them) acknowledge safety protocols in the school laboratory.

Fig.7. Training on lab safety procedures

82.7% of students received training on lab safety procedures.

Fig.8. Frequency of lab safety procedures and protocols being reviewed and reinforced

Out of the 1 to 5 scale assessing the frequency of lab safety procedures and protocols taught in schools, most students chose 3 (center, middle) by 36.5%.

Fig.9. Availability of safety equipment and resources in schools

94.2% of students responded that safety equipment and resources are easily available in the school laboratory.

Fig.10. Proper Labeling of chemicals and materials

Most students (at least 71.2%) responded that the chemicals and materials are properly labeled and stored in the school laboratory.

Fig.11. Ratings of the safety of school laboratory

On a scale of 1 to 10, except for one student response, all students rated safety in the school laboratory above 5 (middle), and 63.4% rated it between 8-10.

Additionally, we gathered some qualitative data:
Do you have any suggestions for improving lab safety in your school?

  • Emergency drills
  • More education on safety
  • Wearing safety materials
  • Labeling
  • Clarify how to deal with cases of emergency

Do you have any suggestions for raising awareness of the significance of lab safety in your school?

  • Posters / promotional video / campaign
  • More safety trainingy
  • Quiz on safety
  • Safety guide

Our team generally received positive responses regarding laboratory safety in their schools. However, it was reported that safety procedures were not often reviewed by the schools. The recommendations the students provided for improving safety and awareness involved this aspect. Most students sensed the necessity for more emergency drills, and the majority suggested more education regarding safety. To raise further awareness of the significance of laboratory safety, more than half of the respondents expressed that visual advertisements, including posters, promotional videos, and campaigns, would be most effective.

School Laboratory Safety Interview

Ensuring student safety in school laboratories is crucial. To receive the most practical insights, our team interviewed science teachers in international schools in Korea regarding safety in laboratory settings.

Our team interviewed multiple science teachers in International Schools located in South Korea regarding laboratory safety. Based on the interview, all teachers stress the significance of understanding the potential dangers of the substance because the chemicals can be toxins, poisons, or fire hazards. In the meantime, all teachers also mentioned that the most common safety hazard at school labs includes injuries from broken glassware and mishandling dangerous chemicals that can be acidic. To prevent these potential accidents in school laboratories, the teachers inform the fundamental safety techniques and also be aware of the locations of chemical safety showers in case of an emergency. Moreover, students are always reminded to wear necessary safety equipment, such as goggles and lab coats, before any chemical experiments. Although there is no specific curriculum or course for safety in the schools, learning about it is more than necessary because the materials that students experiment with contain potential danger beyond the high school level. In response to the accidents, washing hands and checking for potential infection was considered significant

As a possible enhancement for safety, organizing chemicals by reactivity rather than alphabetically can prevent threatful reactions from nearby chemicals that can cause fire or other safety hazards. Furthermore, completing lab orientation and risk assessment is crucial for preventing any accidents in the laboratory.

Improvements in laboratory safety can be achieved through understanding the challenges and incidents experienced in schools. These interviews provide insights into laboratory safety in schools and possible improvement areas to ensure safer laboratory environments for students. Enhancing safety in school labs will also provide students with a foundation for science, preparing them for further experiments.

Safety in Our Laboratory

Precautions for Bead Production

Some bacteria were released into the 0.1M CaCl2 solution when the sodium alginate solution containing bacteria was dropped during the bead production process. Therefore, it is necessary to wear poly gloves during the process, and sterilization procedures are required for the equipment used, including solutions such as deionized water and CaCl2, tips, and beakers.

Disposal Procedures After Bead Use

Using a UV lamp, we measure GFP and its fluorescence. When exposed to UV light for 10 minutes, all bacteria are killed. In the laboratory, bacteria are exposed to UV light for 10 minutes, and then additional sterilization is done using devices such as an autoclave.

Release of Bacteria from beads

  • Single-layer Bead

    Single-layer beads are formed when the alginate solution is dropped into a Cacl2 solution. when single-layer beads are placed on an LB agar plate and incubated at 37 ℃ colonies form in the surrounding areas. This indicates that bacteria are released from the biosensor bead. To prevent bacterial leakage, we attempted to coat the single-layer bead with a 2% alginate solution.
  • Double-layer Bead

    When double-layer beads are placed on an LB agar plate, rolled on the surface, and incubated at 37℃, colonies do not form in the surrounding areas. This indicates that bacteria are not released from the surface or exterior of the bead in the case of double layer bead. Therefore it is safer to produce double-layer beads instead of single layer beads.

Handled Chemical Substances, Hazardous Materials

  • SNP (Sodium nitroprusside): SNP contains cyanide ions, which are toxic if not handled properly. Cyanide poisoning can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. Therefore, when handling appropriate SNP gloves, lab coats, safety goggles should be weared. Moreover, since cyanide gas is most dangerous in enclosed places where gas will be trapped, SNP should be used in well ventilated areas.
  • Sodium Nitrate: Sodium nitrate has a detrimental effect on oxygen circulation in the blood, which can lead to methemoglobinemia. Inhalation of excessive sodium nitrate irritates the respiratory tract, leading to symptoms including coughing, shortness of breath.

Usage of UV (365~395 nm) lamp

UV radiation can have impacts on both eye and skin. The epithelial cells of the cornea in the eyes absorb radiation in the actinic portion fo the UV spectrum. This exposure may lead to symptoms including photokeratitis, aversion to bright light, and production of tears. Additionally, while most of the UV radiation that enters the eye is absorbed in the cornea, UVA absorption by the lens can alter proteins in the lens and result in cataract formation.In the case of skin, excessive uv exposure in the actinic range produces symptoms such as redness, swelling, pain, blistering, peeling of the skin. Chronic exposure to UV may even increase the risk of skin cancer. Due to these health impacts, exposure to UV radiation.

Exposure of bacteria to the external environment

When genetically modified bacteria are exposed to the environment, the antibiotic-resistant gene in the plasmid can be transferred to organisms in the nature through horizontal gene transfer.


Our team is committed to ensuring the appropriate safety standards in and out of our laboratory environment. From the feedback from students and teachers from International Schools in Korea, we recognized several issues concerning laboratory safety in schools, from more frequent review of safety rules to fostering more promotional activities.

By expanding our safety activities beyond our team, we have taken on a leadership opportunity in a broader community by leading an offline camp. More than just establishing the rules, we understood the significance behind each protocol to minimize the potential risk that always exists in a laboratory setting.

The relatively low level of interest in the field of synthetic biology can be attributed to concerns regarding safety issues. With our efforts to actively prioritize safety and ensure a safe environment in the laboratories, synthetic biology can thrive in the future.

Overall, our team has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to safety through continual practices, learning, and actively seeking improvements.