BioBuilder’s Summer Research Program is where high school students go to be synthetic biology scientists for two weeks!

What's the BioBuilder "SRP"?

The Summer Research Program (SRP) is for rising 10th to 12th graders who want to engineer biology to make the world a better place. They do so during a two-week intensive program, held Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, at the BioBuilder Learning Lab @ Ginkgo, a state-of-the-art bioengineering lab inside the Ginkgo Bioworks headquarters in Boston’s Seaport District.

The 2023 summer program had a full contingent of 24 students. The 15 women and 9 men hailed from:

  • Massachusetts
  • Pennsylvania
  • Indiana
  • Texas
  • California
  • New York
  • Tennessee
  • Canada
SRP student and Hiroko

The students used BioBuilder content to launch independent bioengineering projects. With teaching and mentoring from champion educators and PhD scientists from Harvard, MIT, and Boston University, these students accomplished some remarkable things this summer!

Learning and Designing

Roughly half of each day was spent in the classroom learning from their instructors and mentors. The students formed teams, each of which determined a bioengineering project they wanted to develop. The classroom time was also when the teams researched and designed their project, getting expert help from their teaching mentors.

And when BioBuilder asked the students to name the one thing they struggled with the most during the program, the learning and design process was mentioned more than once:

As the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect,” which is why learning these skills early-on helps prepare students for their future scientific careers.

Testing and Optimizing

The teams then moved into the lab to test their designs and processes. This is where they gained hands-on lab skills and learned state-of-the-science assays and techniques, such as:

  • Cell viability assays
  • Cell growth quantification
  • DNA purification
  • Bacterial transformation
  • PCR
  • Sequence analysis
  • Protein purification
  • Enzymatic assays
  • In vitro transcription translation

BioBuilder asked the SRP students to name the top scientific things they learned during the program. Their responses, such as the following, highlight the importance of research protocols and hands-on lab work:

Presenting and Celebrating!

The culmination of the two-week intensive let the teams share their biodesigns with the entire class, their teacher-mentors, their parents and family, and the scientist entrepreneurs at LabCentral.

When the students were asked what surprised them most about their two-week experience, they gave some enlightening and encouraging responses:

  • All the kids were excited about science!
  • How I slowly pieced things together and learned things I have not learned before.
  • How many different applications synthetic biology has.
  • I was surprised at how much I learned, since I already took AP bio.
  • I didn’t know I was really good at organizing, and that I enjoyed doing lab work.
  • This was the first time I fully enjoyed and gained the benefits of working in a group.
  • I was surprised by how doable everything ended up feeling. When I originally looked at the schedule and saw we were doing a ton of things I’d never heard of, it was pretty intimidating. But I ended up feeling like everything we did I could do myself now.

These bright, enthusiastic students are the future of bioengineering. We’re in good hands. Hurray!

The start of a new academic year also ushers in registration for this year’s BioBuilderClub! Registration is now open and will remain so until February 8, 2024.

BioBuilderClub is an opportunity for young innovators to learn and do synthetic biology. Our rallying cry is “all you need is a good idea and we’ll teach you the engineering to bring it to life.”

BioBuilderClub increases student access to authentic tools and approaches for engineering biology. Within biodesign teams, budding scientists develop meaningful projects that address real-world challenges.

BioBuilderClub teams work at their schools from mid-October to mid-March. During the BioBuilderClub season, teams are paired with a practicing bioengineer who will provide 10 hours of mentoring on project ideas.

A laboratory kit is provided by Arbor Bioscience to each team so they can plan and perform an individualized experiment. Teams also enjoy other materials support:

Along with BioMADE who provides financial support of BioBuilderClub, we are so thankful for these organizations and all they do for our future bioscientsts!

Once during the season, teams can visit one of BioBuilder’s two Learning Labs in Massachusetts, and all teams are invited to give a 1-minute “lightning talk” and present a poster at a Final Assembly in March. In addition, many teams publish their project in BioTreks, the peer-reviewed journal for high school synthetic biologists.

We hope to see you – or someone you know who is interested – in the BioBuilderClub this year!