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Effective communication with the public is the bridge that transforms inventions from isolated ideas into real solutions that serve the society. It allows to remain involved with different stakeholders throughout project development to ensure that the product being made is useful and helpful for all of them. Therefore, during the course of the project, we made every effort to reach the widest possible audience. This involved online activity, such as joining a podcast and conducting social media accounts, as well as giving lectures and workshops or going to conferences.

Dutch Innovation Days

As our first public engagement activity, we joined the Dutch Innovation Days in Enschede and presented our project to a wider audience for the first time. Together with other student teams from 4TU.Federation, we presented our project at the PseuPomona stand.

A group picture of all student teams at the Dutch Innovation Days.

Dutch Innovation Days (DID) was an event held between the 11th and 13th of May in Enschede, the Netherlands. We could participate in it thanks to the 4TU.Federation, an alliance of the four technical universities of the Netherlands, which includes ours. DID was the first event at which we revealed our idea tothe public. We had a chance to pitch our project twice and talk to the visitors at our stand. The feedback we received was very valuable and helped us shape the further course of the project. We learned that we had to simplify the explanation of the molecular mechanism and biosafety of PseuPomona to make it more comprehensible for the public. Apart from that, it was also very exciting to see student teams from other Dutch universities. Despite the differences in focus, it was useful for us to see what fully functional student projects look like.

Bartek giving a pitch of our project.

Panel discussion “The Role of Synthetic Biology in Agriculture”

We organised an open panel discussion at Wageningen University and invited four representatives of different stakeholder groups that we included in our project development - a farmer, scientists, an ethicist and a policy maker. The conversation was mediated by Dr. Bertus Beaumont from Studium Generale Wageningen. The discussion showed differences between how these stakeholders view synthetic biology and its challenges, but managed to bridge some of the gaps and broaden everyone’s perspective on the topic.

Panel discussion poster used to promote the event.

The number of stakeholders that were involved in our project made us realise that the conversation about using genetically engineered organisms in agriculture is broader than it initially seemed. Especially when everyone is focused on their specific field, one rarely gets an opportunity to discuss with someone with opposing views or a different perspective. We wanted to create room for that discussion around synthetic biology in the contextual field of our project. Therefore, with the help of Impulse Wageningen and Studium Generale Wageningen, we put together an evening panel discussion entitled “The Role of Synthetic Biology in Agriculture”. It was designed as an occasion to talk about a topic at the intersection of science and society in a rather informal setting.

Our panelists (from left to right): Mr. Dirk van Hees, Mr. Alessio Gerola, Dr. Enrique Asin Garcia, Dr. Ir. Frank van der Wilk, and Dr. Bertus Beaumont.

The location of the event, Wageningen University, was beneficial, since there are a lot of students and employees interested in biological, life, and interdisciplinary sciences. Each of the four invited guests represented a different angle of the synthetic biology ecosystem. Dirk defined clear needs that would have to be met for a synthetic biology solution to be useful to farmers. He was optimistic, but hesitant. Alessio provided a voice for the philosophical approach to modifying living organisms and argued that we should perhaps reconsider our influence on them. He also stated that the challenges we face in agriculture should be looked at in a more holistic way, considering socio-economical, demographic and ethnographic aspects. Enrique displayed possibilities for agriculture that lie within synthetic biology, described his perspective, and showcased how gene editing is approached by scientists. Frank, on the other hand, gave insight on how regulatory bodies consider the use of GMOs and whether it is realistic for the societal perspective on genetic engineering to change.

A sketch of our panelists made by one of the attendees.

People who attended the event also played a big role in the conversation, not only by asking questions but also by stating their own opinions and experiences. The insight that each guest, together with the public, provided was very thought-provoking. According to the feedback that we got from attendees, the goal - to broaden people’s perspectives on synthetic biology in agriculture - was achieved.

Podcasts with "The Living Revolution"

Together with "The Living Revolution" podcast, we recorded a miniseries of podcasts discussing our project, specificity of our work within iGEM, as well as the prospects that synthetic biology gives to agriculture and how we should discuss this matter publicly.

Simon (left) and Nico (right) in the recording studio at Wageningen University.

  • Our collaboration with "The Living Revolution" podcast was very successful, and we recorded a total of three episodes. In the first episode, we introduce the audience to our project by giving an overview of the problem of frost damage to fruit trees, explaining why we decided to tackle this challenge, and describing our solution. Besides the scientific part of our project, we also talk about the dynamics of our team, our motivation to participate in iGEM and interests in synthetic biology.

  • The second episode is dedicated to discussing the development and use of novel synthetic biology solutions in our project, intellectual property, and the ups and downs of working with non-model organisms.

  • In the third episode, we go beyond our own project and reflect on the general use of synthetic biology in agriculture. We discuss the problems resulting from intensive farming and possible solutions that synthetic biology could offer. In this final episode, we also talk about our interactions with stakeholders and the importance of bridging the gap between academia and society when working on such projects.

Blogs and media coverage

PseuPomona was featured in a number of blog posts and online articles. We wrote three blog posts for, got interviewed by and appeared on several other news websites! and - two Dutch agricultural news portals that wrote about our project.

Every year, the Dutch site offers the opportunity for three Dutch iGEM teams to write a series of blog posts on their site. The site is a product of NEMO Kennislink, which is a Dutch organisation that tries to inform the youth about the wonderful world of science using approachable language and short text forms. Therefore, our blogs are mostly trying to inform pupils and students about what iGEM is all about - the ups and downs and, most importantly, the beauty of doing science in a team focused on societal issues. All this was done to inspire the next generation of scientists.

We were also featured in several online articles., a Dutch media platform focused on agriculture, published an interview with our team captain Johannes. Nieuwe Oogst, the biggest agricultural medium in the Netherlands, also published an article about our project. Interestingly, these articles reached international media. Our story was depicted by a Serbian agricultural portal and an American website

Guest lecture at Wageningen University & Research

In order to discuss the importance of stakeholder engagement and scientific communication within projects like ours, we gave a lecture to Bachelor students of the Molecular Life Sciences Bachelor programme.

(from left to right) Bartek, Nico, Agata and Simon giving a guest lecture to Bachelor students at Wageningen University & Research.

We were invited to give a guest lecture focused on our human practices at "Responsibility and Reflection in Molecular Life Sciences" course. The course is offered to Bachelor students of "Molecular Life Sciences" programme at Wageningen University & Research. The course addresses such topics as possible controversies related to life sciences and the role of scientists in society. Topics like these are very relevant issues in case of developing PseuPomona. During the lecture, we showed how we cooperated with our stakeholders at different phases of the project and how their inputs influenced our further scientific decisions. We finished the lecture with a discussion on the safety of biotechnological inventions for the general public and a reflection on our approach toward the stakeholders.

The students actively participated in the lecture by answering our questions and were involved in a lively discussion at the end. They seemed very enthusiastic about our project, as well as the iGEM competition in general. Hopefully, some of them will become members of iGEM future teams!

Elementary school workshop

We conducted a microbiology workshop at an elementary school, in order to spark interest in synthetic biology in pupils.

Simon (left) and Bas (right) giving a microbiology workshop at an elementary school in Ede.

We believe it is important to introduce children to the world of science at an early age and stimulate interest at a time when children are very open to learning various subjects. That is why we organised a workshop for children from elementary school. We got in contact with a teacher from an elementary school in Ede (The Netherlands) who invited us to her class of 9- to 10-year-olds.

Together with the elementary school teacher and a teacher from Wageningen University & Research, we created a workshop that would introduce the kids to the world of microbes and trigger interest in microbiology. As preparation, five days before the workshop, we gave the children nutrient agar plates to take home and grow their own cultures from everyday objects. During the class, we looked at these plates together with the children and explained to them the differences between the microorganisms observed. We also showed 'live' microscopic images of microbes from a ground sample. The workshop was finished with an interactive presentation and a quiz to help the children remember the theory.

A microbial culture on a universal medium, grown from a sample taken by one of the pupils

The response was amazing! We managed to attract the interest of even the less enthusiastic kids and caused occasional sounds of amazement when observing microscopic samples. After coming back home, we got a message saying that the children asked when we would come back to give a second workshop. For us, this is the best sign of success!


On the 26th of May, we participated in a conference organised by SynBioNL, the Synthetic Biology Association of the Netherlands, entitled “Expanding the Horizons”, which took place in Leiden. The aims of this event were to tighten the relationship between synthetic biology enthusiasts working in both academia and industry by allowing them to share knowledge and experience, and to listen to young entrepreneurs talk about their path from innovation to start-up. For us, this event was a great opportunity to discuss our project with the experts in the field of synthetic biology and get ideas on how to improve it.

A group picture of the participants of the SynBioNL conference.

Social media

Since the beginning of the project, we have been active on social media to provide updates on our project and generate interest in PseuPomona, iGEM and synthetic biology. We managed accounts on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. This allowed us to keep in touch with the general public through comments and interact with other iGEM teams, as well as the broader iGEM community.

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