The past few weeks have been full of excitement for the SynBio ecosystem in Africa and it’s been thrilling to be a part of it. With so many new conversations involving SynBio and public engagement being on the rise, both African teams are doing their best to jumpstart SynBio dialogue.
It all began when the AFCM-Egypt team put together a workshop for high school students as a part of their SynFair activity. I was honored when they asked me to come in and give a talk about iGEM for high schoolers and the promising potential that SynBio holds for the region. I was happy to report that I would be a part of the judging panel during the second day of the SynFair activity where the high schoolers will be putting together a science fair showcasing innovative ideas using synthetic biology. Who knows, we might even be seeing an Egyptian iGEM high school team next season!
CU iGEM have also engaged students as a part of the child’s university endeavor and given a SynBio workshop performing multiple interesting activities such as DNA origami and DNA extraction. Following their Promega Instagram takeover has been a blast, if you haven’t checked it out, head over to the Promega Instagram account and follow CU on their lab day and tour of Egypt.
I guess the cherry on top of the cake has been seeing the Egyptian iGEM Bootcamp come to life with undergrads and postgrads coming together from seven universities. The event lasted for four days and was organized with the help of After iGEMers and AFCM iGEM team members. During the event we covered many details regarding the competition starting from iGEM history and competition background, SynBio principles, Benchling, human practices and fundraising. We held various campfire sessions on how to obtain institutional support, fundraising and overcoming local challenges. We watched documentaries, played games and built the attendees’ first synthetic circuits together. It was incredibly rewarding to meet so many SynBio enthusiasts and know that so many institutions are considering joining the growing iGEM family next year.
Some of our Bootcampers had this to say:
"[The event] was informative, interactive and fun to attend. I could tell that a lot of effort was put into planning it, and I am very thankful for that.”
-Dina Ibrahim, ASU.
"I have to say it would have taken me so much time to gather this amount of information on my own, so thank you so much for tackling all the different aspects about the competition and delivering it in such a professional way. ❤”
-Bassant Yasser, Zewail City.
"I feel so lucky to be privileged by being one of the preceptors at the iGEM bootcamp, it offered me the opportunity to perceive and taste the beauty of watching passionate students wanting to know more about SynBio in Egypt. It also made us run hands over problems that face us during any project and finding solutions together. At last, on a personal level, it took me to another step in my experience as an iGEMer, where I transitioned from being a perceiver to becoming a provider of knowledge and experience. It is great to be part of a small yet strong and steady step in the journey towards making change."
-Mo Salah, AFCM After iGEMer and Bootcamp preceptor.