Teachers Learn and Share the Love for Synthetic Biology

Achievement date: 

Twenty-two high school and college teachers from around the country gave two and a half days of their summer time to build new  momentum around their synthetic biology teaching efforts by participating in the BioBuilder Leadership Summit, held in August 2014 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). MIT is a partner in the NSF-funded Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (Synberc), which is headquartered at the University of California (UC) Berkeley.


Participating teachers left the Summit invigorated with new resources and bold agendas. Since the Summit, evidence of their work and enthusiasm can be seen. For example, a resource portal has been initiated so these teachers and others can share their curricular materials, and last fall several teachers gave presentations about the BioBuilder teaching materials at national teaching conferences and through webinars. To date, BioBuilder has reached 457 teachers in 42 states, introducing students in over 200 classrooms to the Biobuilder curriculum.


The aim of synthetic biology is to program living cells to tackle today’s challenges in a broad array of fields, such as biofuels, safer foods, anti-malarial drugs, less toxic cancer treatment, and biodegradable adhesives. The potential of these advances fuels young students’ imaginations. BioBuilder puts current synthetic biology science and engineering research into the hands of teachers to increase understanding and engagement of students with these exciting new advances. Launched by Synberc in 2007, BioBuilder.org is now an independent non-profit foundation.

The 2014 Leadership Summit was conducted as an "unconference," with attendees guiding the agenda and forming working groups around diverse areas of interest including manipulatives (an object which is designed so that a learner can perceive some mathematical concept by manipulating it) for teaching, a music video, and a bioethics teaching module.