Remember the December 2021 Maiden Voyage of the new BioBuilder Learning Lab@Ginkgo? That was when the first group of students – employees from Ginkgo Bioworks – first used the lab. It turned out to be the first of many “BioBuilder for Ginkgo Professionals” workshops that have been held at the Learning Lab.

Between December 2021 and May 2023, 120 Ginkgo professionals experienced five incredible days of learning about synthetic biology, designing a synbio project, and actually doing synbio in the lab.

All about the September cohort

September 2023 Cohort Ginkgo Professionals

The latest workshop was held from September 11 to 15 and included another 24 Ginkgo professionals, bringing the total alumni count to 144. This cohort’s learners have backgrounds in business operations, software engineers, technical writers, and more.

So, what is the impact of hands-on synbio, you ask? Here’s a sampling of graduate reflections:

You get the picture!

Let’s take a quick look at what they did during the workshop that brought them to such enlightening conclusions.

5-days of interactive lectures and hands-on lab work

ginkgo workshop

Day 1: cells as programmable factories, DNA structure, Central Dogma, lab safety, sterile technique, patching cells

Day 2: gene expression, transformation, chassis selection and biodesign, pipetting, small group brainstorming for biodesign project topic

Day 3: transformation experiment, data collection, abstraction and biodesign, “Eau That Smell” experiment, PCR set up, small group work on systems and devices for their project

Day 4: parts and DNA assembly, specifying parts for biodesign, restriction digestion, gel electrophoresis, small group work to finalize project ideas

Day 5: activity measurements, data analysis, small group project presentation

The students learn bioengineering fundamentals, laboratory techniques and instruments, and synbio design skills. And, of course, what would it mean without data analysis and interpretation know-how?!

They also formed small groups and each group designed an actual synbio project of their own choosing. The groups presented their projects to the class on the final day of the workshop.

Big Picture Take Aways

When asked what new things they learned during the workshop, the student responses were varied and encouraging:

  • What makes plasmids useful; details about biological parts
  • How restriction enzymes work and what the implications are for designing DNA
  • Basic lab skills, pipetting, and how to use different lab instruments
  • How synthetic design works; what it means to edit a genome; the list of build and test technologies; how everything fits into the DBTL cycle of Ginkgo
  • How DNA is copied; how cells are modified; how to make biology easier to engineer

The Ginkgo pros also noted how their new knowledge is not just theoretical, it also impacts their work at Ginkgo:

  • Piecing together the science behind Ginkgo, especially the design part
  • Doing the strain test on days 3 to 5 and then having Flo [from Ginkgo] come in and basically talk about how a strain test would be done at Ginkgo
  • The lecture sections answered a lot of questions I had about understanding the risks and purpose of the different sections of work for my projects

All this in five days! Biology + Engineering = Truly Amazing!

BioBuilder has a “hot off the press” new tool that is helping to raise awareness of their impact and role in the fourth industrial revolution – the biotechnology revolution.

The “Case Statement” gives a snapshot of BioBuilder’s beginnings and growth, its global presence, and its unique approach to teaching and learning that is equipping the next generation with the skills and knowledge to drive the biotech revolution.

The effectiveness of BioBuilder’s approach is clear in the feedback received from alumni:

The Case Statement is beautifully designed thanks to Karen Ingram, a long-time BioBuilder supporter and collaborator. Karen’s professional experience spans the arenas of digital design and art direction, creative strategy, event curation, and synthetic biology. Karen uses her skill set to promote scientific awareness, so she was also the perfect person to help author and illustrate the BioBuilder “Synthetic Biology in the Lab” textbook. Learn more about Karen on the BioBuilder Life-Changing Science podcast.

Be on the lookout for more great info like this as we complete our annual impact report and a student outcome “look book!”