2010 GCAT Synthetic Biology Workshop
15 pairs of faculty
July 8 - 10
Davidson College, Davidson, NC

Short-Term Outcomes of GCAT Synthetic Biology Workshop

1) Everyone will learn as much as possible. We will all have fun, and the participants will begin a new phase in their teacher-scholar career.
2) Participants will learn some vocabulary and a new perspective that makes synthetic biology distinct from genetics and molecular biology.
3) Interdisciplinary teams will explore an area of common interest and investigate feasible projects for undergraduate research and possible course development.
4) Participants will develop a strategy to recruit and support undergraduates for research in synthetic biology.
5) Faculty from different departments will collaborate to find common ground, mutual understandings from different perspectives, and a shared vision of how to start a new research adventure.

Front T-shirt Design
Back T-shirt Design


Long-Term Outcomes of GCAT Synthetic Biology Workshop

1) Participants will apply what they learn to develop an undergraduate research program in synthetic biology.
2) Participants will assemble multidisciplinary teams consisting of at least two faculty and two or more students from at least two different majors.
3) Faculty from outside biology will utilize the methods they learned to help design, construct, and test DNA-based devices as part of a synthetic biology research project.
4) Biology faculty will learn the language and tools of the trade from their partner’s discipline to a level of proficiency that they can help design, construct, and test a model of the device as part of a synthetic biology research project.


The workshop was a big success as judged by the 28 participants from 15 schools. You can read more at the Nature Education Scitable web site and daily blog written by Cathryn Westra ('11). A group of participants are writing a meeting report but the first data shown below indicate the workshop was very successful in reaching many of its goals. You can read a published report at the CBE-Life Sciences Education journal page.

Assessment data gathered from 28 participants, rating the
categories on a 1-10 point scale (+/- standard deviation).


Participants learned PCR and how to assemble 5 oligos into dsDNA which they ligated into plasmids. Many times, the non-biology team member did the pipeting and other manipulations.

Each lab section performed ran their own gel measuring the success of their PCR amplifications.
Every group successfully amplified DNA from small samples of E. coli cells taken from a petri dish.


Computer scientist and mathematician learn how to manipulate the DNA.


Interdisciplinary teams had to learn how to communicate using a shared language.
(every Friday in the summer is Hawaiian shirt day in Davidson)


Each interdisciplinary team developed a plan to develop synthetic biology projects they could launch with their undergraduates.


On Saturday morning, each group reviewed the results from their ligations and transformations - every group had colonies! Then each group gave a short presentation describing their plans for taking synthetic biology back home and working with their students in classes and independent research.

Faculty from Virginia formed an state-wide consortium to work on a shared interest in detecting mutagens and their mechanisms.
The team from Oklahoma decided to induce learning and memory in the model organism C. elegans, a small worm.


14 Participant Team Presentations

Macalester College

University of Evansville

Fun Song
(never give up)

Presentations By GCAT Workshop Instructors

Opening PPT BioBrick Assembly PPT BioBrick Assembly Keynote
Syn Bio 4 Areas PPT Explore iGEM Wikis Four Projects by MWSU and Davidson
  Time Delayed Growth in Registry Time Delayed Growth Movie (150 MB)


Previous talks by NSF program officers (from 2009)

Sally 1 (overview)
Claudia (focused on a few areas)
Sally 2 (Writing a better proposal)


This workshop was funded by an HHMI grant to Davidson College (#52006292)


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© Copyright 2010 Department of Biology, Davidson College,
Send comments, questions, and suggestions to: macampbell@davidson.edu