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A SynBio Guided-Learning Experience and Competition for Students in the MEA Region

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About This Project

Students in the Middle East & Africa lack access to quality molecular biology education and hands-on experience. Competitions could be a great way to bridge this gap.

We aim to democratize biotech education in MEA by providing a distance-learning program and competition combo to train students on Synthetic Biology, approaching problems, and teamwork through lectures and individual tasks followed by a group project (the competition), supported by mentors.

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What is the context of this research?

Participating in science competitions as a student could change your life! Opening your eyes to new opportunities in the field of the competition, as well as learning other skills in teamwork and leadership and more.

Students from Africa and the Middle East find it especially challenging to participate in international competitions/programs and navigate them, with those competitions being majorly designed for international audiences, they don't address the gaps in education, students' need for constant mentorship and instructions, struggle to form teams and the lack of teamwork and research experience.

Competitions such as iGEM League, Gogec, and others were addressing some of those issues, but not all of them, here, we are proposing a solution that is truly tailored to the region.

What is the significance of this project?

If we considered the iGEM Competition as a measure of representation in the SynBio ecosystem, only about 1% of the teams are from Africa! This is despite having over 1000 universities and 54 countries in the continent!
A lot of factors are contributing to this, including the high price tag.

With the huge potential of the bioeconomy to level up the situation of the continent, and the potential impact of addressing the gap in Synthetic Biology through competitions, want the students who go through a free online program through which they’ll learn the basics of Synthetic Biology, how to identify and approach problems and research questions and to gain the skills needed to work in an interdisciplinary team, all while creating a Synthetic Biology ecosystem in the region enabling all of that.

What are the goals of the project?

The funding for this project will be used to have a team of three work on preparing the material for the two phases of this program and competition, recruiting students and mentors, and running the whole program.

The idea is Inspired by the iGEM Competition, iGEM Leagues, and the HTGAA course, as well as other competitions such as Gogec, BioMod, & the Biodesign Challenge.
The program is made up of two phases, a course, and a competition, and We aim to have around 100 students in the first phase (The guided-learning journey) and to get 60% of them or more to proceed to the next, optional shorter phase of a collective project (the competition).


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Running a competition takes effort in planning and execution, especially with the the addition of the program and the support and guidance we envision to provide for the participants.

We believe in the power of volunteering, and we will depend on volunteers for mentoring, guiding, and consulting. We do still believe that a good level of commitment from the organizing team would be critical to ensure the successful program, hence, the modest stipend proposed here for motivating them, and to allow us to recruit graduate students to serve as instructors.

Endorsed by

This project addresses what is needed for the MEA region to develop a synthetic biology economy and community through interactive competition. As explained, it will provide the appropriate experience for learners to foster a synthetic biology community in the region. Being from the region and knowing Youssef's previous work, I assure that he is the right person to organize this competition. Youssef was the coordinator for the iGEM MENA league, and I have witnessed his progress in this before; I am confident he can elevate it to another level.

Project Timeline

Here, we are taking into account the school-year in most of the MEA region, as well as making sure to have enough time for the preparation of the material (organizing publicly available resources and outlining of the flow of the weeks, and coordinating with the lecturer and mentors), as well as allowing for enough time to recruit instructors, students, and for conducting the program.

May 02, 2024

Project Launched

Jun 01, 2024

Recruiting Instructors who are able to help in outlining the program content and in supporting the students and the teams

Jul 01, 2024

First Draft of the program (guided-learning phase that is based on publicly available content,  and the final competition outlines)

Aug 01, 2024

Guided-Learning Program kickoff

Sep 22, 2024

Competition kickoff

Meet the Team

Youssef Abdelmaksoud
Youssef Abdelmaksoud
Senior Science Content Developer


Science Street LLC
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Youssef Abdelmaksoud

Youssef is currently a senior Science Content Developer for Science Street LLC, he led the iGEM MEAN League, a version of the iGEM competition aimed at getting more students from the MENA region involved in Synthetic Biology. He worked for over 2.5 years as a Biology Educational Content Developer at Nagwa Educational Technology and as a regional reporter for Africa with iGEM Community.

Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Additional Information

Through this program, we want to emphasize a horizontal learning approach, providing fundamental knowledge across various disciplines rather than focusing on a single, in-depth topic. This ensures accessibility and encourages students to explore the exciting intersections between different fields in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The two phases of the program:
An Individual Phase (8 weeks): During this phase, students have the freedom to explore the fascinating world of biology integrated with other fields. This fosters creativity, curiosity, and a deeper understanding of how different disciplines work together.
Optional Final Group Project (4 weeks): Students who’ve finished the individual phase, and who choose to participate will work on a specific research topic, allowing them to gain valuable experience in collaborative problem-solving.
Throughout the program, we will leverage the evolving digital toolbox for life sciences and synthetic biology as an alternative to Laboratory practical work requirements often found in competitions.

Additionally, we will actively work to establish collaborations with local research entities and companies in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. These collaborations will serve the purpose of guiding students through experts from these institutions and setting project priorities and helping ensure the research projects undertaken by students address real-world challenges relevant to the MEA region.

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  • 2Backers
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  • $50Total Donations
  • $25.00Average Donation
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