You may remember reading about the inaugural workshop for Ginkgo Bioworks employees that was held in December 2021. Three more workshops have been conducted since then to help Gingko’s non-bio professionals better understand the science and engineering behind their efforts, bringing to more than 100 for the total number of Ginkgo employees trained!
The fourth workshop was held in July with 22 of Ginkgo’s “Bioworkers” gathering to learn more about the fundamental biology inside the company’s synthetic biology. The participants spent four half-days at the Learning Lab and came away with hands-on experience in bioengineering. It was another Learn – Do – Aha! week as described in their own words:
“Learning about gene expression and how to design a living system really helped me understand what team members do and work on”
“I am a PM in the Digital Operations side, but having a better understanding of biology will help overall at Ginkgo.”
“I learned so much science, but memorably, centrifuges are fun to use!”
Just another confirmation of the power of BioBuilder’s hands-on approach at the Learning Lab @ Ginkgo!
BioBuilder also welcomed a group of 16 middle schoolers to the Learning Lab @ Ginkgo for a synbio workshop. The July workshop was the first of two being held this summer in partnership with the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research (WIBR). BioBuilder has long partnered with WIBR for their Expedition: Bio summer program for middle school students.
The students, ages 12 to 14, came together from 14 schools in the greater Boston area. They spent four half-days with BioBuilder learning about synthetic biology and conducting hands-on lab work. Their excitement was palpable during the workshop. One student said, “It was exciting to work in a lab space with real equipment. Thank you for showing us amazing labs we couldn’t do at school or at home.”
Program coordinator for Expedition:Bio, Amy Tremblay, wrote to say, “BioBuilder’s engaging curriculum never fails to generate enthusiasm for science among our middle school program participants.”
Next up, BioBuilder welcomed a group of nine high schoolers for a two-week workshop in partnership with long-term partner InGenius Prep. InGenius Prep is an organization that helps students gain experiences that develop their skills in independence and leadership, creative thinking and entrepreneurialism, diversity and self-reflection, and other aspects important to optimizing their future educational opportunities and careers.
The students participated in 10 full days of learning where they dove into synthetic biology. They learned from BioBuilder teachers as well as guest speakers, and they gained hands-on lab experience. At the end of the program, they presented their work to the class and teachers.
The students were from a number of different locations: Saskatchewan and Toronto, Canada; Worcester and Boston Massachusetts; and the states of Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Florida. These students have big goals for their futures including careers in medicine, anesthesiology, environmental science, engineering, and others areas of study. One student shared his big dream:
“If I had a magic wand and unlimited amounts of money, the first thing I would do is help tackle climate change through renewable energy. I would fund independent research to advance and improve alternative energy. I would also support research regarding the efficient recycling of different types of waste.”
Students are not the only ones enjoying BioBuilder learning this summer. A cohort of high school teachers completed remote professional development training with BioBuilder in July.
Due to the pandemic, BioBuilder adapted teacher professional development training to be available online. Since the summer of 2021, we have offered four rounds of BioBuilder Teacher Professional Development Part 1: What is Synbio/Eau that Smell.
The July training consisted of nine teachers from six states across the U.S., including four teachers from STEM LD programs. The teachers watch asynchronous lectures, complete assignments, and build community with their instructors and other participants over the course of two weeks before joining live Lab Days via Zoom.
During Lab Days, the BioBuilder instructors demonstrate how to set up and use the Eau that Smell lab kit while participants follow along in their own school labs. The flexible nature of this program makes it easy for teachers to incorporate into their busy schedules!
These teachers really “get it” when it comes to the importance and possibilities of offering synthetic biology education to young students. As one teacher says:
“Synthetic biology definitely should have a place in all schools as it is a big up and coming industry and has the potential to transform so many things.”
This year we have two summer interns here at BioBuilder, and what a difference they are making! They have been instrumental in making all of our summer programs run and also in working on some new experiments that we’ll teach in the upcoming year.
Geneva Fischer is our college intern this summer. Geneva is a graduate of the Cambridge (MA) Rindge and Latin School where she took biotech classes that included BioBuilder curricula and a visit to the Learning Lab @ LabCentral. She is now a sophomore at Northeastern University studying biochemistry with plans to pursue her PhD. This summer, Geneva has been working on BioBuilder’s workforce development curriculum and also teaching some of our high school students who come through the lab for workshops.
Gunjan Kumar is our high school summer intern this year as part of her participation in the BioBuilder High School Apprenticeship program. Gunjan is a senior at the Pioneer Charter School of Science in Everett, MA, and is currently evaluating colleges to continue her education. This summer, she has been working on a new CRISPR teaching lab for BioBuilder, as well as revising the BioBuilder protocols for our workforce development classes in Worcester, MA.