BioBuilder Trains Teachers in Synthetic Biology

Achievement date: 

Putting current synthetic biology science and engineering research into the hands of teachers to increase understanding and engagement with these exciting new fields is the job of, a program sponsored by the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), an NSF-funded center headquartered at the University of California (UC) at Berkeley. In 2013, 125 teachers received training in one- to five-day workshops, returning to the classroom with new knowledge and teaching materials. Adding in the 75 trainees from 2012, the BioBuilder curriculum has now been brought to over 200 classrooms around the country.


Synthetic biology programs living cells to tackle today’s challenges. The fruits of the field¾including biofuels, safer foods, anti-malarial drugs, less toxic cancer treatment, biodegradable adhesives¾all fuel young students’ imaginations. BioBuilder takes cutting-edge research projects and transforms them into teachable modules for teachers and students to investigate together. BioBuilder’s curricula and teacher training capitalize on students’ need to know, to explore, and to be part of solving real world problems. It is no wonder that BioBuilder is supported by thought leaders in the nation’s STEM community.


BioBuilder’s interactive, web-based classroom and laboratory lessons are connected to real-world research questions and engage students in active learning through experiments. The modules begin with online animations to set up the challenge, and then move offline to the classroom or lab setting. After completing the modules, teachers then return to the online community forum to share their data, findings, and thoughts. To complement the novel content, BioBuilder provides teacher certification that enable educators to grow professionally while nurturing this new, nationwide teaching community.

Started in 2007 at MIT, BioBuilder was created in response to countless requests for synthetic biology learning materials from policy makers, environmental groups, and members of the media needing to know more about the basic biology involved, as well as scientists wanting to know more about engineering aspects of the field. BioBuilder is now an independent non-profit foundation.