BioBuilder Podcast: Viggy Vanchi Show Notes

Life-changing Science: BioBuilder podcast

Episode 6: Viggy Vanchinathan

Viggy just completed his senior year at Westborough High School, in Westborough, a small town in central Massachusetts. He was first truly exposed to synthetic biology through BioBuilder’s bacterial transformation lab, “What a Colorful World”. From there, he partnered with his high school biology teacher to bring the BioBuilderClub to Westborough High School. Since then, Viggy has also served as a near-peer TA for BioBuilder’s summer programs, and this summer will work with them as a junior instructor, as he prepares to start his undergrad program in Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.



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BioBuilder Club, Bioengineering, Science Communication, Abstraction, Westborough High School, Johns Hopkins, Direction, project-based learning, high school, scientific inquiry, research-based learning




Joining a BioBuilder Club allows students to think deep about the questions of whether science and a research career is the right step for them. It allows students to ask themselves whether this is the right career path for them. It’s a great opportunity for students to get involved in a new emerging field.


-I found that super fascinating and gratifying. It’s an amazing prospect. (On genetic engineering).


-Deciding to go ahead and push for the BBC at my high school has had such a profound effect on my future aspirations, research career, interests, everything


-The most mesmerising thing about BBC is the ingenuity of the different teams.


-That moment was pivotal for me (attending the first lab), but I didn’t realize it at the time. BioBuilder opened a lot of doors for me in research/ for my research career.


-Being part of BioBuilder has helped solidify the direction I’m going to be going -after high school, after college. That one lab started it all.


-BioBuilder helped me figure out that SynBio is where I want to be.


-BioBuilder gives students real world research experience.





Zeeshan Siddiqui (00:00):

Hello and welcome to Life-Changing Science, the BioBuilder podcast. I’m your host Zeeshan Siddiqui. And today I talk with Viggy Vanchi just completed his senior year at Westborough high school in Westborough, a small town in central Massachusetts. He was first truly exposed to synthetic biology through BioBuilder’s bacterial transformation lab, What a Colorful World. From there, he partnered with his high school biology teacher to bring the BioBuilderClub, to Westborough high school. And since then Viggy has served as a near-peer TA for BioBuilder, and he’ll also be working with them as a junior instructor. Once he starts his undergraduate program in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins. I am super excited to talk to him today, so let’s dive right in.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (00:46):

Viggy, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m really excited to talk to you about BioBuilder.


Viggy Vanchinathan (00:53):

Yeah. Awesome. I’m excited to be here with you, Zeeshan.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (00:55):

Let’s start with, when did you first hear about BioBuilder? You know, and what inspired you to join them as well as I think BioBuilder was your first real introduction to the world of synthetic biology.


Viggy Vanchinathan (01:10):

Exactly. Yeah. So my kind of first, you know, formal introduction to synthetic biology was through a lab actually provided by BioBuilder, which is the What a Colorful World lab I think is what it’s called and essentially it’s this bacterial transformation lab where, you know, there are two kind of strains of E.Coli provided and give each of those two strains two different plasmids. And essentially at the end of the day, we transformed these bacteria from these like, you know, whitish, tan, colorless kind of bacteria into these green and purple colonies. I just, I found that super fascinating, right. Just the idea that you’re, you have a living organism, right. And then you’re, you’re editing the organism, right. That’s such an amazing prospect.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (01:51):

Which year, which grade are you, were are you in with this lab?


Viggy Vanchinathan (01:54):

I was in 10th grade, so two years ago. And, you know, since then I’ve been super interested in that and you know, generally, again I think one of the things was that moment was kind of pivotal for me, but I didn’t realize it at the time. You know, it was just a moment, but, later on, you know, about it, it really kind of, it opened a lot of doors for me that I didn’t realize would be open at that point. The title of the podcast is life-changing science, right? I can definitely say that BioBuilder was a very big life changing science for me because I, like I said, it opened a lot of doors in research.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (02:28):

That was the first time you heard about BioBuilder when they had the lab in the classroom at your school. And that was at Westborough high school in Boston?


Viggy Vanchinathan (02:38):

Westborough high school. Yes.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (02:39):

Yeah. Awesome. And did you have to like, was there like a sign that said, oh, BioBuilder is coming and sign up here? Or did they just rock up to your biology classes?


Viggy Vanchinathan (02:50):

Actually yeah, yeah. That as an interesting process. So the actual lab itself was kind of provided by BioBuilders, but our teacher shoutout to Mrs. Purdy, she’s an amazing teacher. And she was actually telling us, her class about how she helped out another BioBuilderClub in a different town in Massachusetts. And it was that moment, I was wondering, this is really cool, right? Why don’t we have a BioBuilderClub at Westborough high school? And, you know, I was, I was kind of talking to Mrs. Purdy about that and saying, you know, hey, how about we try to bring a BioBuilderClub to Westborough high school? And, you know, from when I was talking to my friends nearby, they were also really interested in joining and from there kind of took off, right?


Zeeshan Siddiqui (03:28):

You mentioned that that particular class, the first BioBuilder class was quite pivotal, quite life changing. And you didn’t realize it at the time, which is, yeah, which is crazy, really not too long ago. Two years ago.


Viggy Vanchinathan (03:39):

Goes to show how much can kind of change in two years, you know, particularly, you know, I think, you know, we can talk about this also, but the idea of, I think BioBuilder has really kind of just helped solidify the direction I’m going to be going, you know, after, after high school, after college. And I think I attribute it to that, that one moment, you know, that one lab kind of started at all.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (03:58):

A question I do have is you were, you had other subjects in year 10 in terms of science, like physics and chemistry and bio etc. Compared to your other subjects, was this BioBuilder lab class the most hands-on? Because the other classes I presume with there’s a lot of lecture, material, not lecture material, but textbook material to memorize. And a lot of the experiments seem to sometimes work because you follow the same protocol, but with BioBuilder when you were performing the lab that you have that feeling of it’s very firsthand, very hands on like firsthand investigation, very hands-on as well as you really didn’t know what to expect from the lab.


Viggy Vanchinathan (04:37):

Yes, yes. It was definitely a hands-on thing because it wasn’t just, you know, I I’m reminded of those cooking shows where they’re just like, they, they, they prepare it in front of you and they pull out one that was like, oh, I saved this. I had this from later, you know, I prepared this earlier or whatever, it wasn’t like that. Right. It was like, we actually take, we took the bacteria, we smeared it on the plate. We did the heat shocking. We did the transformation all ourselves and they came back the next day and then saw the results of our own actions. Right. So it was, it was super, you know, hands-on like you mentioned, you know, it was, it was gratifying, right? To see you did this process and now this organism has changed because you did something, and that’s, you know, kind of a magical experience. Right?


Zeeshan Siddiqui (05:17):

What happened next? What was your next, so you had, I think the BioBuilder, this particular lab class in year 10 was two or three days?


Viggy Vanchinathan (05:25):

Yeah, it was, I think about two days. The lab was two days in our general biology class. And then after that, as I mentioned, I talked to Mrs. Purdy about, Hey, how do we get this, how do we get BioBuilder into Westborough high school? Because it seems like there’s a lot of interest. I’m super interested in it. I think, you know, it could be really successful. And, um, from there we kind of worked out, you know, who do we need to talk to? Mrs. Purdy really took care of a lot of the administrative tasks, which I’m super grateful for. I ended up writing a little bit of a, kind of a proposal to the principal and assistant principals about, you know, why we should bring BioBuilder for our school. From there, it started the next year. So in our, in my, in the fall of my junior year, and we had a lot of students that were interested from last year that came back.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (06:09):

Okay. So before we go into what happened next, you said you wrote a letter. What would, what would you say are the three key points or arguments that you made in favor of having like, not in favor, but being like we need BioBuilder in our school right now.


Viggy Vanchinathan (06:24):

Yeah. I mean, there’s so many things that I could, I could probably, I could possibly say it from BioBuilder especially now come out of the BioBuilders and seeing the benefits that I gained. Generally, one of the things I mentioned was, you know, it’s giving these students, I think research experience, right? It’s, it’s not just a lab where it’s kind of, pre-determined, it’s a design team. That’s kind of go and make a project, right. That’s that’s real world, giving students as a research experience that is real world is just really beneficial, right. To help students determine, is this the right career path for me? Is this the right subject for me? Joining a club like that and the opportunities, you know, like we mentioned, it’s a really new opportunity and it’s a really amazing way for students to get involved in such a new emerging field.


Viggy Vanchinathan (07:09):

Right. Synthetic biology, I think is like two decades old or something. Right. And all of a sudden now high school, high schoolers are able to do it. So I think it’s just an amazing opportunity. That’s, that’s one. Another thing I wanted to mention was the, the whole idea of working in a team, right? It’s, it’s, it’s a collaborative venture almost right. You, no one’s going to be doing this alone. It’s, everyone’s kind of contributing to the design. Everyone’s kind of contributing to each step of the process. So secondly, it’s collaborative. And, and third, I would say this idea of communication, right. From my limited experience in research, science isn’t really going to get anywhere unless it’s communicated, right?


Zeeshan Siddiqui (07:45):

Exactly. Exactly.


Viggy Vanchinathan (07:47):

Yeah. Without the idea of, you know, making the Final Assembly projects or kind of understanding what’s actually going on, right. It’s not going to get as far essentially.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (07:55):

I couldn’t agree more. Well, I’m glad that BioBuilder did continue on that you were able to bring the Club into, into the high school. Could you talk about your experience as yeah, as one of the founding members?


Viggy Vanchinathan (08:09):

I mean, first off, right. I just wanted to say that, you know, as a founding member, I kind of started off in the same position as a lot of the other members. Right. Synthetic biology is super daunting. Like when you first start off, right. You know, the prospect of engineering life is cool and all, but like, how do you actually, how do you actually do it? Right. And that was something that none of us knew how to do when we first started. Right. t, at the first start, the way that, you know, BioBuilder likes to teach the actual subject is it’s very easy to kind of get into it. They have the abstraction hierarchy, right. They have the idea of system level and then all the way down to the parts level. So what we were doing as a, as a first-year team was really working in the upper levels of the abstraction.


Viggy Vanchinathan (08:46):

Right. We were thinking of what is, you know, what is the system going to input? What’s the input in the system. And then what’s going to be the output to the system. Right. And we wanted to tackle climate change with synthetic biology. So aim really big. And then narrow it down again. As a first year team, we were really aiming high, trying to dream big. Then, you know, as a founding member, I thought it was really fun to be kind of on the forefront of that and being able to lead the team and that brainstorming process was really fun. And it was just a good experience to not feel hindered by any limits, you know, and we weren’t really focused on the super small, minor details yet. We’re just focusing on what can we do with synthetic biology?


Zeeshan Siddiqui (09:21):

More, more on the macro.


Viggy Vanchinathan (09:23):

Exactly, exactly.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (09:24):

Yep. Tackling climate change with synbio. Firstly, that I’m, that’s great to hear, just shows the scope of synthetic biology, like Bill Nye says “can really change the world.” Next question. What was the project in? What was specifically the project?


Viggy Vanchinathan (09:40):

Essentially what we’re doing is, more specifically, right. Climate change is a very big topic, a lot of emissions, um, multiple contributors to the problem, right? So what we were looking at more specifically is methane emissions from cows, right. So we were looking at, can we perhaps introduce some bacteria into the room and like the stomach of the cow, can we introduce some bacteria into the feed of the cow that would alter something? Can we find a way to capture the methane that was actually emitted by the cows and alter that to something more sustainable or, you know, something, some bio substance that can be actually used, you know, even more productively, right? And I, you know, we kind of ran into some problems. Right, you know.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (10:25):

Of course. In research, if, if there are, you know, if they’re on aren’t right.


Viggy Vanchinathan (10:33):

Exactly. So what we did was we kind of pivoted, right. We had some problems with, you know, working with methane. So we decided to focus on one part of the metabolic pathway and look at methanol. And it’s just at the first moment sensing methanol and seeing if we could do that. And so our project mostly formed, around sensing methanol.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (10:52):

Okay. More the biosensor route.


Viggy Vanchinathan (10:56):

Exactly. Exactly.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (10:57):

How has the support of your team’s mentor influenced the direction of the project? Because you mentioned like you pivoted a bit pivoted a little focusing on methanol and then biosensors, et cetera, how, how influential was the team mentor?


Viggy Vanchinathan (11:12):

We could not have done it without our mentor. Uh, again, shout out to Dr. Josh, amazing scientist who helped us on our journey. Again, none of us knew what we were doing and to be frank Dr. Josh was that the person that helped us orient ourselves, right. We, we want to tackle, we want this to happen. And Dr. Josh is the person that says, here are the things you can do to make that happen. Right. And we, once we kind of understood what we were doing from that point, we kinda started adding our own kind of ideas and our own little touches into that. And generally the, the, the help that Dr. Josh was was I gotta, I can’t say, he helped us more than I can even say. Yeah,


Zeeshan Siddiqui (11:48):

Of course. Yeah. All right. So yeah. Let’s talk about presenting your at the Final Assembly, the teams work via Zoom or Microsoft teams. How was that experience?


Viggy Vanchinathan (11:59):

Yeah, it was, it was via Zoom and it was a little bit nerve wracking, you know.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (12:03):

Of course.


Viggy Vanchinathan (12:03):

I guess just kind of generally when you present, you, you have to know the material, right? You have to, you can’t just go up there and say, you know, you, can’t kind of like blabber, right. You have to know the material, but I think the presenting was super beneficial in helping me understand more about the synthetic biology itself. Right. Because now I’m understanding each part of that abstraction hierarchy, right? What is our system? What is the parts, what are, what are we doing essentially? Right. And preparing for the presentation really helped my own synthetic biology understanding. And just general presentation skills in general, like how to create a presentation, how to, how to execute it. Yeah. It was just super beneficial. I thought it was a great experience.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (12:42):

As, as you mentioned earlier, science communication is as important as the science. This is going to be a hard question to answer, but what has been the most interesting aspect of the BioBuilderClub? I think you’ve mentioned like, it’s honestly, I would think every day would, there’ll be something new that would just make you go like, wow, this is incredible, I did not know this. And you’d learn something, you learn 20 new things every day or 200 new things every day.


Viggy Vanchinathan (13:09):

Exactly, exactly.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (13:11):



Viggy Vanchinathan (13:12):

Exactly. It’s not even just us, that’s learning 200 things a day. Every fuel itself is so new that it’s expanding at that rate every day. Right. You know, like sometimes I, I sometimes think about how, you know, all the, all of the domains of science are kind of expanded so much that I feel like well everyone has already discovered everything, but no, synthetic biology is just beginning, right. This is the new frontier. So, you know, you know, just like, you know, you have Newton or whatever, or, you know, Liebniz who are kind of the fathers of one science. We were establishing the fathers and the forerunners of synthetic biology now. Right. And in the future, it’s going to be something like, oh, we’re looking back on now. And now is the, that was the time, you know, you have people like George Church working on yeast 2.0, you know, eukaryotic cell biology, amazing stuff that’s happening. Right. Okay. But anyway, back to BioBuilder, right. I think one of the biggest…


Zeeshan Siddiqui (14:04):

BioBuilder is building that synbio curriculum, which is, you know, that foundation is what’s necessary for us to continue to grow this field.


Viggy Vanchinathan (14:12):

Exactly, exactly. Yep. But I think one of the most mesmerizing things about BioBuilder is kind of the ingenuity of the different teams. Right. All of the, there are so many different teams and everyone approaches their own problem in a different way. And all the problems themselves are so different. And so, some, some teams are doing things like a spider silk, some teams are doing things like, like fireproofing trees. When you hear the other projects that are being created by other teams, you know, of high schoolers, just like you, it’s just, it’s really inspiring. I think, you know, it’s inspiring to think, you know, this is what can be done with synthetic biology. This is what, you know, what we’re doing with synthetic biology. And I think BioBuilder is really good for just understanding what the potential synthetic biology is and really empowers you to think, you know, it really empowers you to think I can do that, you know?


Zeeshan Siddiqui (15:03):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. And that’s, that’s amazing to hear because, you know, there are so many problems in the world right now. And you know, it’s been a very difficult, challenging past, you know, year or two. Synthetic biology, um, offers a lot of optimism, for the feature, right? With the projects that people are coming up, that you know, anyone in high school and you don’t have to have a PhD or be a professor to really tackle these problems. You can go up to your biology teacher and be like, Hey, there’s BioBuilder. This opens up this whole new world.


Viggy Vanchinathan (15:41):



Zeeshan Siddiqui (15:42):

I guess BioBuilder allowed you to put, to view the world through a synthetic biology lens.


Viggy Vanchinathan (15:47):

Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. It’s not like, you know, there’s this problem. Now it’s more like, there’s this problem, what can I do about it with synthetic biology? You know, it’s so versatile that again, you can apply it to everything you have biofuels, you have, you know, agriculture products, you have cleaning products, you have so many different ways you can apply synthetic biology and it’s only growing. Right. I know we mentioned earlier about the idea of CAR T-cells right. The clinical application of synthetic biology is expanding.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (16:15):

So given that the past year or so, I’m pretty sure almost everyone around the world had online classes. Zoom was our best friend and worst enemy, and it’s, it’s been difficult for parents, students, teachers, especially people in year 11 and 12 and college is really stressful years. Right. And also a lot of people don’t realize, not everyone has a, you know, a great internet connection, not everyone has the luxury of, you know, working from home or, um, attending online school. Was it, important that BioBuilder continued to offer like a BioBuilderClub-like program over the last year or so? How important was that?


Viggy Vanchinathan (17:02):

Yeah, it was super important, especially for our team that, you know, we kind of, the way the BioBuilder works is that you can continue your projects a year on end. Right? So once you finish one season, you can continue working on that project the next year to expand that, you know, again, it doesn’t seem like, you know, these types of scientific projects are going to be ended in a few months, right. It takes a little more time than that. So that the opportunity, the fact that we had the opportunity to continue our project was kind of invaluable because it expended all of our understandings of synthetic biology. It allowed us to go really a lot more deeper into the, you know, we mentioned the idea of the abstraction hierarchy, right. And the first year it was more of the upper levels, very general.


Viggy Vanchinathan (17:40):

But you know, in the, in our 12th grade year, in, in our, in the, in pandemic, right, we had a lot of opportunity to go down to those lower levels. You know, we were actually in, Benchling working with plasmids. We were actually on the iGEM, the standard registry of biological parts and finding, you know, operons, the lux operon to put into our plasmid. Right. It’s all, you know, these super, you know, minute details that allowed us to advance our project, that we really got access to this year itself.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (18:07):

That’s amazing.


Viggy Vanchinathan (18:08):

Yeah. And you know what I mean? Not even just in our own project, right. In general, it just expanded kind of our own understanding of research. Right. And research doesn’t have to be per se on the bench in person.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (18:19):

Of course not, yeah.


Viggy Vanchinathan (18:22):

It can, it can be a design kind of thing. Right. It can be a computational design team, you know, the science, the science will find a way.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (18:30):

Yeah. And yeah, you mentioned Benchling and plasmids, and that design aspect, which is so critical in synthetic biology in any synbio project. And I just want to mention that, you know, I wasn’t using Benchling I used Benchling third year of college. You were using it in year 11. That’s incredible. Do you know, like you should be in my position, you should be going on to do a PhD Masters straight away. Like you don’t need, BioBuilder kids don’t need undergrad. So you served as a near peer TA. What’s a near peer TA?


Viggy Vanchinathan (19:04):

Yeah. I mean, it’s a fair question. I mean, honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing. Like, I didn’t know what it, what the job was until I started doing it. And, it’s more of that, you know, as opposed to the teacher kind of talking at you, right. You have that, that other person, that side, that’s been in your position. Right. If you’re, if you think about any class, right, you have the TA that was in your position a few years ago. Right. So for me, I helped out, in the summer over, I think, two sessions of kids. Right. Essentially, um, it was a middle school program to help these students come with their own synthetic biology projects. Right. And from my position, right. I had started my synthetic biology journey a year ago. So I was in their position, a year ago.


Viggy Vanchinathan (19:48):

So it tends to be that younger students and adults kind of think about things different in different ways, you know, um, you know, for better or for worse. But generally I felt that, you know, having, you know, providing the opportunity for these middle school kids to talk to somebody that was a little bit younger who had just started the synthetic biology thing, um, like they were, was helpful in their own process where I could help, I could help iron out any common misconceptions that a student like us might have. Right. Um, so generally it was helpful instead of having, you know, instead of having it more of a textbook or a lecture based class, it was more of an investigation based kinda class.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (20:26):

Yup, yup, yup. And what were some of your most memorable moments.


Viggy Vanchinathan (20:30):

Ooh. That’s, that’s a difficult one. There’s a lot of memorable moments. I think one of the things is, um, you know, I myself have a lot to learn, right? It’s again, you mentioned an emerging field. I had the opportunity to kind of read a lot of the textbook, um, before the classes and everything. And I was also learning right along with them. Right. I had my own experience, but it really solidified my own foundation and how that, and how that worked and how synthetic biology worked and how to explain it right. Again, as well as being a teacher, as well as being a presenter, you need to understand the material, right? So that’s, that’s definitely one aspect that was really memorable. Another aspect was just working with kids. You know, I, I felt that kids and adults kind of think about problems in different ways, you know, I feel like there’s a tendency sometimes for, you know, engineering projects to be limits oriented kind of constraints oriented, right?


Viggy Vanchinathan (21:21):

What are the constraints that we have and how do we, how do we work within those constraints to build something, something efficient, right? The thing about these kids, they don’t think like that, right. They think about, they think, you know, what is the coolest thing I could do with synthetic biology? And then let me do it, right? There’s no limits, there’s no constraints, the unhindered creativity. And, you know, some of the projects that they were coming up with were super amazing, super ingenious. And, you know, I think that type of thinking is needed, right? It’s just more needed. That’s how innovation occurs right?


Zeeshan Siddiqui (21:46):

Now. You’re moving on to a undergraduate program in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University. That is very exciting. There’s a lot of new things you’re going to be able to do research. Firstly, you’re going into research with a really good understanding of what research is like, but then once you get to university, you’ll be like, I knew nothing. It was going to be so many things answered. As soon as you answer something, there’ll be 50 more questions with each answer. So that is something to look forward to and there’s so many things moving away from home, et cetera. So my question is when did you know you wanted to pursue biomedical? So one, when did you know you wanted to pursue biomedical engineering at university as a major? And two, how influential was BioBuilder in your decision to pursue that major? I think we’ve gone over the second part, a bit of how BioBuilder, one opened up the world of synbio to you, made you realize how much you really enjoy research and just asking those, you know, the big questions, but yeah, let’s start off with why biomedical engineering?


Viggy Vanchinathan (22:50):

I was kind of interested in biomedical engineering because it was that, that intersection, I kind of found of the math and science that I’m interested in. I’m secretly a math nerd, by the way, I initially studied [inaudible]. I think my, my perfect dream research position would be as something math-y and something, synthetic biology, that’d be awesome.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (23:07):

It is. Maths is under, it comes under the synbio umbrella. It’s the process of making biology easier to engineer, right? You can’t have synbio without the mathematics, without the stats, without the computer science. Right. It’s as important as the biochemistry or microbiology.


Viggy Vanchinathan (23:23):

I’m not sure exactly when I was set on bioengineering, but I know that BioBuilder, helped me figure out, you know, synthetic biology, biotech is where I want to be after college. You know, biomedical engineering is simply one path on that. You know, that’s another thing that I’ve kind of discovered over, you know, my college application process and kind of reflecting on my BioBuilder time right? There’s so many paths to synthetic biology. You know, I’ve talked to many mentors and some people are mechanical engineering, some people are electrical engineering people, so many people that are, so many ways to get to synthetic biology. It’s not something you can kind of deduce a priori or something, it’s very, you know, open, right. It’s, it’s something, you know, very, free. So I’m really interested in kind of exploring those quantitative aspects in biomedical engineering. And then applying that later, to synthetic biology. So,


Zeeshan Siddiqui (24:12):

And BioBuilder, basically the BioBuilderClub, helped you sort of understand and appreciate synthetic biology and make you realize your own personal passion for it and how it’s a great, synbio and biomedical engineering, is a great marriage of like engineering side of things, where you have your maths and [inaudible] ah, maths and stats and programming as well as the other side. Good old biochemistry, biosensors, methanol. Okay. It’s clear that BioBuilder has, you know, had a big influence and impact, a very positive impact on your high school career college and major choices. How do you plan on staying connected to the BioBuilder community while at college? I think you’re planning to return as maybe a junior instructor or something similar.


Viggy Vanchinathan (24:59):

Yeah. Yep. I would absolutely love 100% to return as some type of junior instructor, possibly once I become experienced enough, maybe even a mentor like a full mentor, kind of like essentially what Dr. Josh was to us I’d like to be to some other students. You know, I think that would be an amazing experience, um, for both parties in that end. And generally I kind of want to give back to BioBuilder because it’s kind of influenced so much about, you know, kind of where I want to end up. So that’s definitely one thing.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (25:26):

Finally, what is your message to aspiring BioBuilderClub students and teachers? Let’s start with students, let’s start with students.


Viggy Vanchinathan (25:37):

I mean, I would think, let me, I would say, you know, I have two messages, that kind of apply to both teachers and students almost right. One is kind of, you know, don’t really underestimate a step in the right direction. You know, I think there’s a tendency for, especially motivated students to kind of, you know, want to build everything, wanting everything done with a burst of inspiration, right? You know, I want to finish this, I want to do this right. I want to finish this with utmost perfection. Right. It’s best. I think you can’t really, I mostly want to talk about this idea of, you know, how a small decision, right, that kind of has that, that, that far reaching implication, right. That, are you familiar with the idea of the butterfly effect?


Zeeshan Siddiqui (26:18):

I was just about to say…


Viggy Vanchinathan (26:22):

Such a small decision, right.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (26:25):

The BioBuilder effect.


Viggy Vanchinathan (26:25):

Exactly. There’s, we’re going to make a new word. Okay. BioBuilder effect, new effect. But yeah, the main idea, right. Is, you know, don’t understand that a step in the right direction because you know, none of us can really determine what the effect of a small decision is going to be on our, on our future. Right. For, you know, I alluded to this at the beginning of the podcast, deciding to go ahead and, you know, push for this BioBuilderClub at the high school has such, has had such a profound impact on my future aspirations. My, you know, my research career, future research career, my interests, everything, right. It’s sort a small decision, but it, you know, cascaded into something, something huge. So my advice would be, you know, to students, don’t underestimate those small moments, right? The small moments, those small decisions are going to be the ones that lead to the great things in your life, rather than those huge bursts of inspiration. Right. It’s not going to be like, oh, I have a eureka moment like Einstein, and then now I’m all of a sudden a genius right? No, you have those small moments that lead to something else that lead to something else. Right. I just thought that was a really valuable thing that I learned.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (27:28):

Everything is step by step. Yeah.


Viggy Vanchinathan (27:29):

Exactly. Everything is step by step and you take it one step at a time and it will lead to something that’s…


Zeeshan Siddiqui (27:35):

And they accumulate. It accumulates and those steps, you know, their BioBuilder steps. So, you know, you’re headed in the right direction, you know, there’s that support, then it only leads to great things.


Viggy Vanchinathan (27:46):

Exactly. It’s not, John Coltrane’s giant steps. It’s BioBuilder steps, you know exactly. That’s, that’s one thing I, I think that the second thing I wanted to say is the idea of limits, right? A lot of people say, Hey, you know, I can’t do this. I can’t do that. I’m not smart enough, whatever that means. I’m not smart enough for that for the listeners I’m doing the air quotes. A lot of those limits are self-created right? A lot of them are self-created.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (28:12):

Couldn’t agree more. Yeah.


Viggy Vanchinathan (28:14):

Do whatever you want. Right. You can go as far as you want and go as hard as you want. You’re in control. So if you want to do this project, go ahead do the project. If you want to go there and do it, you can do it. You can do whatever you want. A lot of the limits you create for yourself are self-created. I learned that through BioBuilder because of just how far I got by just putting myself out there. For students and teachers, you know, pay attention to those self-induced limits and [claps] start breaking them, I guess.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (28:39):

Start breaking them. Thanks once again, to Viggy for joining me today. I thought his comment on when he looks back at that first BioBuilder lab class, realizing now how pivotal that moment was and how the small decisions are the ones that are going to lead to great things in your life was very insightful. I believe this episode will be very useful to high school students and teachers looking to start a BioBuilderClub, as well as anyone interested in learning about the tremendous impact BioBuilder can have on a student’s life. If you’d like to learn more about anything Viggy and I discussed today, please refer to the show notes.


Zeeshan Siddiqui (29:13):

Join me for the next BioBuilder podcast. We’ll welcome another wonderful guest whose career has been influenced by BioBuilder’s Life-changing Science. See you next time.