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This course surveys the rapidly evolving, interdisciplinary and interconnected fields of chemical and synthetic biology. Chemical biology uses precise molecular-level manipulations to influence living systems from the bottom up, often by introducing components that are foreign to nature. Synthetic biology takes advantage of existing molecular technology and adopts an engineering mindset to reprogram life. Students will achieve literacy through immersion in chemical and synthetic biology. We will prioritize broad exposure to these fields, their vocabulary, culture, practices and ideas, through extensive engagement with the primary literature that expert practitioners use to teach themselves. The instructor will guide, facilitate, and give feedback, but de-emphasize direct instruction. Students take on the agency and responsibility for assimilating meaning from the material and working together effectively to advance everyone’s understanding. This model prioritizes skills important for autonomous and collaborative work in real-world scientific and professional fields. Topics we will cover include synthetic genomes, metabolic engineering, chemical synthesis and manipulation of biomacromolecules, directed evolution, and reworking of the central dogma.
Format: seminar; The course will be remote. Group work and multiformat communication will be emphasized. We will engage with readings asynchronously on an online discussion platform (Perusall). We will hold two 75-minute synchronous meetings each week for presentations and small and large group discussions. Small groups will also meet independently for 1 hour outside of class each week to discuss and prepare to present on readings.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
Course work includes consistent and intensive engagement with primary literature, weekly short presentations, synchronous and asynchronous discussion, informal writing assignments, response papers/problem sets, and an independent research project with presentation and writing components. The workload is designed to be distributed evenly throughout the semester. There are no exams.
senior and junior Chemistry and Biology majors with a demonstrated interest in chemical or synthetic biology
BIMO Interdepartmental Electives