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Designing DNA in the Classroom

Designing DNA in the Classroom

Professor Orkan Telhan’s research resides at the intersection of art, science, and emerging technologies; his work provides insights into the very building blocks of life. Now he’s sharing tools that can help students unlock these insights in high-school classrooms. 

Telhan, an Associate Professor of Fine Arts, helped develop bioMAKERlab, a portable version of a synthetic biology lab for students and educators. Students can construct DNA, gene-by-gene, or "hack" microorganisms by building genetic circuits, which can be used to manipulate their color, smell, and shape. 

With bioMAKERlab, high schools and community colleges will have access to technology only available at leading universities and corporate research labs at an affordable price—and without the need for dedicated facilities. 

Telhan and Professor Yasmin Kafai of the Graduate School of Education developed the kits with support from the National Science Foundation and tested prototypes and curriculum protocols with students and teachers at two Philadelphia high schools. 

By encouraging wider, hands-on participation in an emerging field, the next generation of students can experience a paradigm shift in education— by designing biology, not just studying it.