The first week of the CSH Synthetic Biology Summer course included four days of condensed, full-immersion lab courses called Practicals that covered diverse areas of synthetic biology. Each student worked in a small team of five students who rotated through different topics throughout the week.
Each team started with one of the four Practicals. On day one, they may have completed a comprehensive ~8-hour lesson on multi-part DNA fragment assembly and confirmed the successful production of clones the next morning, even if they had never used a micropipettor before. This Practical was led by John Dueber and Luke Latimer (TA).
On day two, they may have participated in a computer modeling lab where they practiced composing systems of equations to represent and simulate the behavior in a gene circuit. The modeling Practical was led by Mary Dunlop and Nick Rossi (TA).
Day three may have been a full wet-lab lesson in CRISPR editing of mammalian (human) genomes, which included everything from basic tissue culture techniques to transfection, flow cytometry, and biochemical genotyping to detect editing events. This Practical was led by Karmella Haynes and Rene Daer (TA).
On day four, the team would switch to their final topic, in vitro cell-free transcription translation systems (TXTL) where a scientist can measure the behavior of plasmid-encoded gene circuits almost instantly in a microplate, without the need for cell transformation and culturing. This Practical was led by Julius Lucks and James Chappell (TA).
These exercises gave all 16 students a taste of the diverse techniques and systems used in synthetic biology and will stimulate their creativity for the second phase of the course where they use these basic techniques to carry out more exploratory work.