Lyle Musesengwa is a high school sophomore at Dobyns-Bennet HS, a rural school in Kingsport, TN, near the Appalachian Mountains. His school has strong STEM offerings, including the MATE Underwater Robotics competition, as well as nationally recognized Marching Band program.
Lyle was born in Cape Town, South Africa and came to the US as a 4 year old. In this podcast Lyle notes that he can’t remember a time he wasn’t asking questions. His interest in synthetic biology began in 5th grade – even though he didn’t know that’s what it was called, when he learned about how animals adapt to their environment and wondered how to increase the efficiency of that process. His teacher pointed that techniques exist to change the biology of systems, and he know it was something he wanted to pursue.
Introduced to BioBuilder when it was added to biology curriculum in 9th grade, Lyle was especially taken with the BioBuilder Idea Accelerator. The program has an impact for at least two reasons. First is because it was the first time he got to choose an issue to study based on what mattered to him – in his case he chose climate change and tried to design an organism that can reduce greenhouse gases. He and his team are still working on this project a year later, presenting their project idea at Bioeconomy Symposium at ETSU in October 2022 to local business and entrepreneurs and got feedback.
The second impact he sees from BioBuilder is how the program made him realize that when he is working inside in a laboratory, it is to solve a problem that exists outside the lab in the world. To further this interest of his, he has sent a “strongly worded email” to his school principals, lobbying them to bring a BioBuilderClub to Dobyns-Bennett High School. They are working on starting for next year.