Synthetic biology is a discipline wherein living organisms are genetically programmed to carry out desired functions in a reliable manner. This field takes inspiration from our ever-expanding ability to measure and manipulate biological systems, and the philosophical reflections of Schrodinger and Feynman that physical laws can be used to describe and rationally engineer biology to accomplish useful goals. After all, cells are the world’s most sophisticated chemists, and their ability to learn to adapt to changing environments offer enormous potential to solving modern engineering challenges. Nonetheless, biological systems are noisy, massively interconnected, and non-linear, and have not evolved to be easily engineered. The grand challenge of synthetic biology is to reconcile the desire for a predictable, formalized biological design process with the inherent ‘squishiness’ of biology.
Learn Techniques and Perform Research at the Forefront of Synthetic Biology: The course will focus on how the complexity of biological systems, combined with traditional engineering approaches, results in the emergence of new design principles for synthetic biology. The Course centers around an immersive laboratory experience. Here, students will work in teams to learn the practical and theoretical underpinnings of cutting edge research in the area of Synthetic Biology. Broadly, we will explore how cellular regulation- transcriptional, translational, post-translational and epigenetic- can be used to engineer cells to accomplish well-defined goals. Specific laboratory modules will cover the following areas: computational biology using ordinary differential equations models, gene circuit characterization using microfluidics, cell-free transcription and translation systems, engineering RNA molecules as biosensors, high-throughput cloning techniques and genome engineering. Students will first learn essential synthetic biology techniques in a four-day ‘boot-camp’, and then rotate through research projects in select areas.
In addition, students will interact closely with a panel of internationally-recognized speakers who will give students a broad overview of applications for synthetic biology, including renewable chemical production and therapeutics, the current state-of-the-art techniques, and case studies in human practices and socially responsible innovation.
Applications: Synthetic biology is an inherently interdisciplinary field. We encourage students of all backgrounds, whether the very biological or very theoretical, to apply. In your Statement/Essay (see How to Apply) please rank your interest in three major available laboratory modules:
- DNA Assembly: Advanced Methods for Rapid Gene Network Assembly
- CRISPR Technologies: Programmable Gene Regulation in Bacteria
- TxTL: Engineering Gene Circuits in Cell-free Transcription-Translation Systems
- Gene Circuits: Single-Cell Analysis Using Microfluidics
This course is supported with funds provided by: National Institute of General Medical Sciences
, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
, Helmsley Charitable Trust
and National Science Foundation
Cost (including board and lodging): $3,735
This button links to a short form which confirms your interest in the course. No fees are due until you have completed the full application process and are accepted into the course.
Students accepted into the course should plan to arrive by early evening on August 1 and plan to depart after lunch on August 15.