IGEM:University of Chicago/2009/Notebook/Human Practices/Brainstorming

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University of Chicago


Discussion: Why are we thinking about this presentation?

  • We want to design a presentation kit, which would include powerpoint slides on all sorts of topics, that can be used by future iGEM Ethics and Community Outreach teams. We believe that a lot of time can be saved if teams take advantage of an open-source presentation kit like this one. Our collaboration with UIUC will not only make our presentations more interesting for the kids, but will be a model for future iGEM teams and enhance our presentation kits. Our idea is that our UChicago iGEM team can make a certain set of powerpoint slides and assemble a certain set of media examples, and the UIUC team can do the same, then we can each pick and choose which set of details we want to present with.

Discussion: What do we want our own presentation to be like?

  • How presentation could look:
  • What is genetic engineering?
      •    What ISNT genetic engineering: Frankenstein's monster, Dr. Horrible
      •    What IS genetic engineering: glowing bacteria, corn, strawberries
      •    basic definition: genetic engineering is the direct manipulation of an organism's genes.
  • What is DNA?
      •    How do offspring look like parents?...A little history about the discovery of DNA
      •    DNA facts: basic unit of hereditary information, blueprint of an organism.
      •    How does DNA work? Cell uses DNA to make proteins; proteins make the body function.
  • What can we do with this knowledge of DNA?

• Genetic engineers can introduce DNA from one organism into another, giving organisms new abilities they didn't have before!

Step 1: Find an interesting organism in nature (glowing jellyfish, plants that produce drugs)
Step 2: Isolate the protein that is responsible for the interesting function of the organism
Step 3: Isolate the DNA that is responsible for this interesting function.
Step 4: Introduce this DNA into a different organism who can use this function.

• What are some interesting examples of this:

spider silk production
penicillin production 
past iGEM projects are rife with cool examples
Craig Bentner made his own organism.
How does genetic engineering affect other disciplines?
      •    Medicine (production of drugs)
      •    Agriculture (bigger corn, bigger strawberries)
      •    Environmental Management (Clean up pollutants)
      •    Alternative Energies (harvest biofuels from engineered algae)
  • What are some ethical problems with genetic engineering?
      •    "Playing God": controlling the genomes of organisms - is that bad?
The Gattaca Fear (show a clip here)
Public pressures on genetic research (cite popular media)
      •    The Danger of Super-Bugs: creation of super-powerful pathogens
Creation of the super pseudomonas bacteria
      •    Fear of Genetically Engineered Food: irrational fears of foods that have been engineered.
fear of transposons being in the food, etc.
Note: For each ethical problem, we can provide a genetic engineer's counter-argument to debunk these fears.

  • How are we involved in genetic engineering?
      •    Synthetic Biology: design and build novel biological systems from standard parts
What is it? When did it start? Basic facts
      •    iGEM: the main outlet for undergraduates to get involved in Syn Bio
What is it? Who is involved in it? Where does it occur?
      •    What is special about iGEM?
open source knowledge
standardized parts
international collaboration
ease of participation
  • Discussion/Activity
  • We brainstormed and determined many different activities or discussions. Here are a few ideas:
      •    Get audience members into teams, present them with "case studies" in bioethics, and ask them 	

to discuss various viewpoints or problem solve to come up with compromises.

      •    Develop a game like the video game "Spore," which we believe to have a lot of similarities to 	the engineering of organisms that  syn Bio espouses. The game would have to work in a 	classroom setting...anyone have any DnD experience?
      •    Ask the audience members for their opinions on various issues in the field of Bio Eng. Would 	they be okay with eating engineered food? With using drugs produced by microorganisms?

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


1. What is Genetic Engineering/synthetic biology 2. Introduce parts and make something out of putting parts together, then talk about the concept of synthetic biology 3. Introduce iGEM

      •    Transformation
      •    “underground/garage biologist
      •    DNA isolation
      •    Gel demo

4. Problem solving and how it relates to synthetic biology 5. Conceptual introduction to lab techniques 6. Why does genetic engineering apply to the students 7. Touch on ethics