Build-A-Genome

The Build a Genome Course was introduced in 2007, and is now offered for up to 20 students each semester and during the summer. To date, over 100 students have completed the course, including students majoring in computer science, biomedical engineering, biology, chemical and bio-molecular engineering, and biophysics. Entering students are interviewed to evaluate their understanding of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), DNA cloning and sequencing, nucleic acid structure, biopolymer synthesis, and more before acceptance. The students, ranging from high school students to grad students and the occasional postdoc (but >95% undergraduate) master not only methodology, but also fundamentals of Molecular and Synthetic Biology, related computational skills (there is also a specialized computational track in the course), as well as exposure to the economic / entrepreneurial and bioethics sides of SynBio. Following a biotechnology “boot-camp,” students are given round-the-clock access to computational and wet-lab resources and are expected to invest 15 to 20 hours per week in this four-credit course. Each student is assigned a segment of the synthetic yeast genome (currently 10,000 bp) to synthesize, and must deliver 100% accurate DNA by the end of the semester. This remarkable course, unlike any other in the world, has been called a “cross between a one-room schoolhouse and a biotech company.” See Dymond et al. Genetics, 181: 13-21.