Revision as of 00:00, 17 October 2014 by Andy.Bachler (Talk | contribs)



Our Goals

Our project is in the “Foundational Advance” track and similarly we wanted High School students to learn and investigate what Synth Bio was and where it is heading in the future. We believe to create is to learn so restarted the writing competition for High Schoolers start by last year’s iGEM team. We asked students to create a 1000 word piece answering the following question:

“Which advancement in synthetic biology do you think
is the most promising, and why?”

Out and About

University Open Days

Over the course of the year we volunteered at our Universities Open Days, spruiking both studying Science and participating in the Strange Nature writing competition. Talking to future science students about what is possible and what may soon be possible was incredibly insightful and seeing their interest in Synthetic Biology was wonderful.

Pictured above are Kya (left) and Callum (right) talking to prospective Science students about everything from Genetic Engineering to the best place for coffee on campus.

Science Week Volunteering

We also volunteered as part of the Australian Society for Microbiology during Science Week at their stall at the Australian Museum. There we were able to talk to hundreds of Primary (years K-6) and High Schoolers (years 7-12) to discuss Microbiology, Biotechnology and also find out what they knew about Synthetic Biology and genetic engineering. The displays really fascinated the kids and students, especially the fluorescent bacteria!

Fluorescent Bacteria in long wave UV light cupboard

Contacting Teachers and Schools

We got in contact with many teachers and schools to promote the writing competition. We also wrote articles for Science Resource Newsletters sent to teachers to try and increase the awareness of our project.


Our competition was hosted on the Strange Nature website where we provided resources about what Synthetic Biology was, recent developments and future applications. The competition was open until the 1st October. We had a whole host of submissions from Dystopian future stories of genetically engineered super humans to exploding E. coli. We had more essays submitted this year than previously and while the quality of submissions varied they were all incredibly insightful to what the students think about the possibilities of Synthetic Biology. We currently have a short list of 6 pieces which we feel are well written, explore Synthetic Biology and show imagination in their responses.


Our aim was to encourage students to find information on Synthetic Biology and to raise awareness of the field. While genetic engineering is superficially covered in the NSW and Australian High School curriculum we felt it important to try and get students to think beyond what they've been taught in class. The best pieces we received demonstrated they had done some research into what Synthetic Biology actually is and the possibilities this new field can bring. The vast majority of submissions we received were incredibly positive about the technology and in many submissions the level of excitement conveyed was incredibly encouraging.

But to go beyond simply giving a prize for the "best" piece we are providing feedback for each submission to correct some mistakes and also to start a discussion on their topics. Many pieces only considered the positive side of an advance, such as in vitro meat while not addressing the negative problems. Our aim was to encourage students to consider the future of Synthetic Biology and through their submission and the feedback we provide it is our belief that we are prompting them to broaden their thinking of the advances which may come in the future.

The Team

Integrons: Nature's cloning tool

Strange Nature

Integrons as a novel cloning system in E. coli

Integrons are systems that can capture and utilise mobile genetic elements known as gene cassettes, and which are found in a vast array of bacteria, often associated with antibiotic resistance. Gene cassettes with an attC recognition site are site selectively recombined into an attI recognition site by the integron integrase. We are seeking to design biobrick compatible integron components that can be used as a novel, convenient and selective cloning system in lab strains of E. coli, which normally do not contain integron systems. Additionally, we are investigating regulation of natural transformation mechanisms in E. coli in an attempt to allow uptake and recombination of attC containing genetic elements with added convenience. This will include investigating the role of the transcription factor sxy, as well as other components of the DNA uptake systems of other gram negative bacteria that are naturally transformable.

With thanks to: