Biohacking: Genetic switches


Hi, all –

I would like to propose a project-based DIYbio course for IG (probably a few sessions long), focused on the construction of genetic switches (to control fluorescent protein expression) as the basis for an introduction to concepts in synthetic biology. In addition to providing students with a solid foundation in molecular biology, it would also provide some new tools and data that would actually be useful to “real world” researchers everywhere.

Topics would include:
Introduction to DNA, genetic components, and genetic design
Basic microbiological techniques
DNA construction
Delivering DNA into cells
DNA sequencing and analysis

Depending on the class size, the materials would probably cost ~$15 per person, and then we could figure out how much additional $ should be charged to go to IG. At BioCurious, I taught an introductory 6 week course on metabolic engineering with 20 students who each paid ~$200; that’s the Bay Area though.

There are some nuts and bolts issues to work out (e.g., I have the gear, but I’m not sure where it would go – maybe it would have to wait for the new space?), but I wanted to at least bring up the idea for discussion.



I’m very interested in this, both in being a student and helping out.

Let me know if there’s anything I can do to push this along.


How much space would this need?
Do the supplies sit out over the six week period?
Does the environment need to be especially clean or sterile for the process to work?


We can probably squeeze into ~6’ of counter space (with storage underneath). A couple/few things would have to sit on the counter the whole time (e.g., non-food microwave oven), but most of the gear could be stowed away when not in use. It doesn’t need to be super clean or sterile; probably as clean as a kitchen or family room at home. Basically, you want a nonabsorbent surface that you can sterilize with alcohol, and avoid having stuff blowing onto your work surface.

I don’t remember, is there a sink in the current space?


We have access to a sink but it is down the hall and quite gross, with no real adjacent counter or drying rack.

We have weighed the idea of having one installed in the back of our space but didn’t get as far as requesting quotes (we would need a licensed plumber to connect to the sewer).

It sounds like a bench with clear door that can be closed to keep clutter off, cabinet beneath, and perhaps a fume hood connected to a carbon filter would meet the basic needs? Exhaust to outside is a little fussy in the basement.

Obviously in a future where we have space upstairs this would be a little easier and nicer.

If there is interest in a paid class, perhaps it could subsidize the cost of the bench…


I think it probably makes the most sense to wait until we can set up in the new space, because many of the bugs we would have to address downstairs probably won’t be bugs we would have to deal with upstairs. I’m also going to be traveling a lot in the next few months anyway, so for now I will just focus on planning things out.