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From July 10 to 12, the UNC Biobehavioral Lab (BBL) hosted eleven high school and college educators for the first North Carolina Biobuilder Workshop. The hands-on synthetic biology workshop was led by BBL Director Dr. Patricia Silveyra and Joanne Bartsch, a Science Teacher and Science Department Chair at Carolina Day School.

Dr. Patricia Silveyra (left) and Joanne Bartsch (right) with the 2019 Biobuilder workshop participants.

During the three-day workshop, attendees participated in discussions about synthetic biology, which involves engineering biological systems for new uses, as well as genetic engineering, biotechnology and bioethics. They also received hands-on training on laboratory procedures, handling and modification of non-pathogenic microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria, molecular biology techniques and biology by design activities to implement in their classrooms.

In the last  decade, synthetic biology has become an increasingly prominent field of study in colleges and universities worldwide. Yet high school students rarely learn about it due to lack of accessible, hands-on curricula for such a rapidly developing field. The Biobuilder foundation is a STEM education nonprofit created at MIT that offers a wide range of open source and free curricula to foster exploration, innovation, and interest in the emerging area of synthetic biology. Dr. Silveyra has been an instructor for Biobuilder for the past three years.

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