The industrial revolution in the 19th century and the digital revolution in the 20th century forever changed our world, adding speed and efficiency to almost every aspect of our lives. The 21st century is ushering in a third revolution, one that uses biology to meet local and global challenges. Cells are becoming a platform technology for making sustainable food and fuel, as well as novel high-performance materials, medical diagnostics, and targeted therapies. This four-part series dives into the DNA language that encodes cells and how it can be deployed in scientifically sound ways to engineer solutions to challenges we read about in the news. Each 2-hour pre-recorded seminar includes a lecture and an "in the news" component.

The series is led by Dr. Natalie Kuldell, BioBuilder Founder and Executive Director and MIT faculty in the Department of Biological Engineering. Dr. Kuldell is joined by bioengineering doctoral students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Dr. Adam Santone, who specializes in data visualization and K-12 STEM education.

This material will be of particular interest to high school biology students familiar with the ideas that:

  • Cells are the basic unit of life (matter)
  • DNA encodes information that can be transcribed into RNA, which can then be translated into proteins (bits)
  • Energy can be converted from one form into another (joules) 


The recorded seminars and/or full series are available for download at a nominal fee.

  • Seminar 1 - Introduction to Synthetic Biology
  • Seminar 2 - DNA and Protein Engineering
  • Seminar 3 - Building a Living Sensor
  • Seminar 4 - Quantitative Analysis and Visualization of Experimental Data

Click here to download the seminar series Bio-Engineering for a Changing World


A Note to Teachers: Synthetic Biology is a branch of bioengineering that uses genetic molecular techniques to engineer and construct living systems. The BioBuilder curriculum was collaboratively developed with high school teachers, and so fits into the frameworks and standards that must be met. These lectures address NGSS standards such as: 

  • Molecules to Organisms (HS-LS1) how the structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells
  • Ecosystems (HS-LS2) evidence for the role of group behavior on individual and species’ chances to reproduce
  • Heredity (HS-LS3) relationships about the role of DNA in coding the instructions for characteristic traits 
  • Evolution (HS-LS4) how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations
  • Engineering Design (HS-ETS1) analyze a major global challenge to specify solutions that account for societal needs and wants
  • Earth and Human Activity (HS-ESS3-4) refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activity on natural systems
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