Synthetic Biology
July 23 - August 5, 2019
Application Deadline: April 1, 2019

Instructors (see full profiles here):

James Chappell, Rice University
Elisa Franco, University of California Los Angeles
Philip Romero, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Michael Smanski, University of Minnesota
Ophelia Venturelli, University of Wisconsin-Madison

See the roll of honor  - who's taken the course in the past

Cells are the world’s most sophisticated chemists, and their ability to adapt to changing environments offers enormous potential for solving modern engineering challenges. Nonetheless, biological systems are noisy, massively interconnected, and non-linear, and they 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.

This course focuses on how the complexity of biological systems can be combined with traditional engineering approaches to result in new design principles for synthetic biology. The centerpiece of the course is an immersive laboratory experience in which students work in teams to learn the practical and theoretical underpinnings of synthetic biology research. Broadly, the course explores how cellular regulation (transcriptional, translational, post-translational, and epigenetic) can be used to engineer cells that accomplish well-defined goals.

Laboratory modules cover the following areas:

  • Microfluidics for high-throughput characterization of biological systems
  • Cell-free transcription and translation systems to characterize genetic circuits and RNA regulators
  • Modeling gene expression using ordinary differential equations
  • DNA Assembly and Design of Expression Cassettes
  • Computational modeling of genetic circuits and microbial communities.

Students will first learn essential synthetic biology techniques in a four-day ‘bootcamp’ at the beginning of the course. Following the bootcamp, they will rotate through research projects in select areas. Students will also interact closely with a panel of internationally recognized speakers who will collectively provide a broad overview of synthetic biology applications, including renewable chemical production and therapeutics, state-of-the-art techniques, case studies in human practices, and socially responsible innovation.

Past 2018 Lecturers:

Frances Arnold, California Institute of Technology
Jose Avalos, Princeton University
Matthew Bennett, Rice University
Yvonne Chen, University of California Los Angeles
Tara L. Deans, University of Utah
Charles Gersbach, Duke University
David Kong, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tae Seok Moon, Washington University Saint Louis
Michelle O'Malley, University of California Santa Barbara

Application instructions:

Synthetic biology is an inherently interdisciplinary field. We encourage students of all backgrounds to apply, from experimental biology to very theoretical fields. At the end of your personal statement/essay, please rank your interest in the following major available laboratory modules (from highest to lowest interest):

(1) Cell-free transcription and translation systems to characterize genetic circuits and RNA regulators

(2) Modeling gene expression using ordinary differential equations

(3) DNA Assembly and Design of Expression Cassettes

(4) Microfluidics for high-throughput characterization of biological systems; and (5) Computational modeling of genetic circuits and microbial communities.

Cost: $3,960

This tuition rate is all-inclusive and includes housing and food. Additional financial aid is available; to indicate financial need, please submit a short stipend request as part of your application materials.

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.

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 July 22 and plan to depart after lunch on August 5.

Before applying, ensure you have:
  1. Personal statement/essay;
  2. Letter(s) of recommendation;
  3. Curriculum vitae/resume (optional);
  4. Financial aid request (optional).
    More details.

If you are not ready to fully apply but wish to express interest in applying, receive a reminder two weeks prior to the deadline, and tell us about your financial aid requirements, click below: