First, we eliminated the constraints of the cell membrane through our project...

Now we seek to address barriers through synthetic biology education.

For over 20 years, the iGEM foundation has continually strived to promote education as an important chapter of any team’s project. Though the field of synthetic biology has grown exponentially in the last decade or so, there are still millions unaware of the beauty of this field. With the orthogonal engineering approach of synthetic biology slowly gaining popularity, we at UBC iGEM realized that more is to be done to promote the very base concepts used in synthetic biology through easy, accessible platforms.

Thus, this year, our team dedicated our education efforts to the forefront of Synthetic Biology, Sustainability, and Biosafety, emphasizing inclusivity at every stage. We honed our focus on enlightening the public through an engaging Web Video Series named "Simply Synbio," delivering easily digestible segments that cover fundamental synthetic biology concepts. Given UBC's distinguished reputation as a global leader in sustainability, our UBC iGEM team diligently tackled significant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to biotech industries in our "Sustainable Development in Synthetic Biology" series, sparking important conversations on sustainability. Additionally, upon expert consultation, we aimed to make our platform easy and safe to use through the culmination of a User Manual that would provide users a detailed report of our toolkit.

Synthetic Biology: Simply Synbio

Upon reflection and consideration of our experiences and feedback from students in non-science faculties, a conspicuous void in educational resources for students, particularly young ones, in understanding synthetic biology came to light. Recognizing this gap, we set out to bridge it by creating an enriching educational video series titled “Simply Synbio.”

You can check out the series below:

Figure 1: Simply Synbio: What is Synthetic Biology?
Figure 2: Simply Synbio: What is Protein Modelling?
Figure 3: Simply Synbio: What is Cell Free Protein Synthesis?

Our primary mission was to unravel the complexities of synthetic biology, presenting them in an engaging manner suitable for all ages, especially sparking the curiosity of young minds intrigued by STEAM subjects. To achieve this, we meticulously curated topics aligned with our project's objectives, seamlessly blending fundamental concepts into our scripts. We crafted these scripts to deliver digestible, bite-sized pieces of information, ensuring that learning becomes an easy and enjoyable endeavor. Infusing vibrancy, we enlivened the content with captivating animations, enhancing the overall learning experience.

We opted to begin with a formal introduction to iGEM, a term not widely recognized. Recognizing iGEM's interdisciplinary and integrated nature, we decided to cover topics across various subteams within our project. We started by delving into both wetlab and drylab aspects, with a commitment to continue this series into the future. Since computational work has become so heavily integrated into wet lab experiments, we decided to animated a video overviewing the importance of what protein modeling is and why it has become such an important aspect of research. Finally, for wet lab, given that our project this year focused on using a CFPS platform, something not widely understood, we sought to cover the concept of a CFPS reaction by detailing what it is, why it is used and why it is quickly becoming popular platform for protein production.

Our aspiration was to foster mutual learning and dialogue, implementing our initiatives with meticulous planning and thoughtful consideration. We firmly believe that our endeavors have empowered more individuals to actively engage with, shape, and contribute to the fascinating realm of synthetic biology.

Looking forward, we envisage this series evolving into a regular initiative for our team, serving as a shared platform for multiple teams to convene and disseminate knowledge in an accessible and digestible manner. To ensure broader accessibility, we readily shared these educational materials on popular platforms such as YouTube and various social media channels, accompanied by inclusive captions. However, we understand that education is a dynamic and interactive process, hence we actively encouraged a dialogue with our audience. Through comments, messages, and discussions on our videos, we created a vibrant space for questions and interactions, cultivating a dynamic and engaging learning environment.

Biosafety: User Manual

Through expert consultations, we engaged in discussion with Dr. Richard Kelwick, a senior research associate with interest in synthetic biology, cell-free gene expression systems and extracellular vesicle biology. Through our conversation, Dr. Kelwick made the very important suggestion for a User Manual in order to assure that individuals using this platform do so safely and appropriately. Ensuring the safe and informed use of our system was paramount to our team, prompting the development of an extensive User Manual. This manual serves as a comprehensive guide, furnishing critical insights into biosafety measures, system functionality, bioethics, and handling concerns associated with international shipping—targeting a broad audience, particularly those intending to use our system.

Our approach to crafting this manual was collaborative, pooling the collective knowledge and expertise of various subteams. Engaging in insightful discussions with experts, we recognized the crucial need for a resource that not only elucidates the technical aspects but also delves into the ethical considerations of synthetic biology. To address this, we thoughtfully integrated sections within the manual dedicated to bioethics and biosafety. These segments shed light on ethical implications, emphasizing the responsible and conscientious use of our system.

In addition, we acknowledged the unique challenges of developing kits intended for worldwide shipment, notably issues concerning substances like methanol. These considerations were thoroughly detailed within the manual, providing guidelines and precautions to ensure safe handling and shipping practices, alluding to our commitment to global responsibility. The resulting user manual, spanning multiple pages, encapsulates a wealth of information. Each section is meticulously curated, offering valuable insights into system functionality while emphasizing responsible usage, ethical considerations, and safe shipping practices.

Understanding the importance of fostering dialogue around these critical topics, we actively encouraged interaction. Users were welcomed to reach out with questions, concerns, or suggestions, fostering a dynamic feedback loop that guaranteed safety, ethical awareness, and effective utilization of our system. This collaborative and interactive approach aimed to promote mutual learning and dialogue, enriching the collective understanding of responsible and safe practices within the synthetic biology community. Through the transparent sharing of our experiences and insights, we aspire to empower a broader audience to actively shape, contribute to, and responsibly participate in the fascinating realm of synthetic biology.

Sustainability: Podcast

In 1987, the United Nations defined sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs1. With the increasing problem of climate change, waste generation and food scarcity, sustainability has quickly integrated itself into the heart of global companies’ policies. The biotechnology industry has started accounting for the sheer amount of waste generation by starting greener research initiatives to maximize productivity while simultaneously minimizing bio and plastic waste disposal.

As students focussed on promoting and creating new avenues for sustainability, we felt there was a need for engaging in important conversations with leaders in the biotech industry around responsible consumption and production. Our initiative aimed at raising awareness and educating the public about sustainable development within the realm of synthetic biology was driven by a desire to shed light on the efforts and considerations necessary to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the industry. Recognizing the urgent need for action to achieve these global objectives, we saw it as essential to extend this knowledge to a wider audience. Our target audience encompassed a broad spectrum, including the general public seeking a deeper understanding, synthetic biologists exploring sustainable approaches, and professionals from both academic and industrial sectors looking to align their work with the SDGs.

In pursuit of our objective, we embarked on engaging interviews with industry and academic professionals. Meticulously tailoring questions to each speaker's expertise, we delved into specific SDGs and their intricate relevance to synthetic biology. Capturing these insightful conversations, we meticulously edited the audio files, ensuring they were polished and impactful, and then shared them across various social media and audio platforms. Our approach was designed to make these vital sustainability discussions easily accessible to everyone, thus amplifying the reach of the SDGs' critical message. This podcast aims to gather knowledge from experts on a more global scale to complement the animated video series which tackles promoting education on a local scale to the immediate community. Check out our latest episode!

Education is a two-way street, and just as dialogue is crucial for effective learning, we wanted to ensure our listeners could interact with us as well. We actively encouraged comments, feedback, and questions, fostering meaningful conversations around the important topics we covered. By nurturing an interactive and engaging platform, we aimed to deepen understanding and encourage actionable steps toward aligning synthetic biology practices with the SDGs, ultimately fostering a more sustainable future for all.


  1. United Nations. (n.d.). Sustainability | United Nations.

© 2023 - Content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

The repository used to create this website is available at