Team:Berkeley Wetlab/Human Practices


(Redirected from Team:Berkeley Wetlab/Ethics)

Demystifying Synthetic Biology

This project set out to investigate issues of accessibility. The public discourse surrounding science in general and synthetic biology specifically often becomes problematic due to asymmetric understanding of the technical nature of the discipline. The polemics tend to include superstitious and rhetorical charges of "playing god" as well as hyperbolic statements promising unimaginable technological boons. This project tries to objectively show synthetic biology as it is practiced and to transcend the ideological stalemate in the public discourse.

I created a visual tutorial that will serve as an introduction to synthetic biology called Synthetic Biology University. It is designed so that it can be used as a training tool for future iGEM teams as well as to inform the broader public and illustrate what Synthetic Biology looks like in practice. The tutorial was authored in Adobe Flash and consists of simultaneous videos showing bench work and animations abstracting the bio-chemistry. The user is guided through an experiment from start to finish by a virtual professor named Sim Berk. This simultaneous macro/micro approach makes the tutorial pedagogically effective as it clearly shows the concepts that I personally struggled with while being introduced to Synthetic Biology. The project is being published under a creative commons license and the scientific community is encouraged to contribute, alter, or edit the tutorial.

The tutorials are being showcased as part of the Ars-Synthetica website. This website is a compilation of problems, discussions, and truth claims oriented around synthetic biology and human practices.

You may find these tutorials at


Our team's lab practices conformed to UC Berkeley's Environmental Health and Safety protocols. While none of our parts are expected to raise any unusual hazards to researchers, the public, or the environment, some of our display system DNA came from RG2 organisms. These are noted in the registry.