SynBio Workshop

Summer Synthetic Biology Workshop for High School Teachers

North Carolina State University

This workshop was supported by the National Science Foundation, NCSU Genetics and Genomics Academy, and NC Plant Science Initiative

Access all workshop materials here

This five-day-long workshop for biology teachers was held twice (July 25 to 29, 2022 and July 24 to 28, 2023) and provided hands-on training in basic recombinant DNA technology and synthetic biology. Workshop participants employed mini-versions of standard laboratory equipment to implement a series of molecular and synthetic biology methods to generate a recombinant DNA construct. The techniques covered in the workshop include plasmid DNA isolation, gel electrophoresis, restriction digest, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), Circular Polymerase Extension Cloning (CPEC), competent cell preparation, bacterial transformation, and blue-white selection of bacterial colonies. The modules taught in the workshop have been beta-tested in the hands of 43 AP Bio students in the Mrs. Sherry Wantz class at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh.

Besides receiving hands-on training, workshop attendees participated in several information sessions on available molecular cloning technologies (SLIC/Gibson/SLiCE and type II S methods Golden Gate/TNT/MoClo/GoldenBraid), synthetic genetic devices, metabolic engineering, synthetic cells, and practical SynBio applications (from healthcare to warfare). The Registry of Synthetic Parts and the iGEM competition were introduced to alert the teachers about potential avenues for their students to pursue. The workshop concluded with a discussion on the future of the SynBio field, its promise to provide solutions to everyday challenges, and on ethical considerations.

The workshop attendance was free to teachers. Participants received a small honorarium ($100/day), free parking permits, and free dormitory-style accommodations at NC State University.

After the workshop, the mini-equipment, lab supplies, and reagents were made available to all trained teachers free of charge on a two-week rental basis from our small equipment lending library. This enabled trained teachers to apply their newly acquired molecular skills in their own classrooms. The experimental modules taught at the workshop can be implemented in the context of Biology curriculum units on Evolution and Genetics (to facilitate teaching the concepts of structure and function of DNA and DNA technologies) and/or Molecular Biology (to demonstrate the Central Dogma of Biology).