Over 150 students have participated in the Build-A-Genome course at Johns Hopkins University since its inception 5 years ago. This hands-on experience with the Sc2.0 project allows participants, including high school students, undergraduates, and faculty members, to gain extensive experience in the fields of synthetic and molecular biology and demonstrates the unique didactic potential of Sc2.0. This year we extended our effort in this arena and engaged in a formal collaboration with the Dalton School, a private high school in Manhattan. Working with Dr. Jennifer Hackett, a former PhD student at Johns Hopkins University and now teacher at Dalton, 9 talented grade ten biology students built 80 Cre-EBD constructs that will be used to activate SCRaMbLE, the inducible evolution system encoded by the Sc2.0 genome. The students assembled these constructs using ‘yeast Golden Gate’ (yGG), our standardized assembly method that enables fast and efficient construction of S. cerevisiae transcription units. Importantly, the students transformed these constructs into a yeast strain encoding a synthetic chromosome and subsequently induced SCRaMbLE; these students are now some of the only people in the world who have inducibly evolved a synthetic yeast chromosome.
Dr. Jenny Hackett (right) and eight of her students. Pictured behind are data from a SCRaMbLE induction experiment.