BioBuilding: Synthetic Biology for Students: Lab 3

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Lab 3: Picture this

Explore an engineered biological system through a computer simulation, an electronics building kit, and a real-life example.

Acknowledgments: This lab was developed with MIT's undergraduate lab subject 20.109, in collaboration with extraordinary biological engineers: Jeff Tabor, Deepak Chandran, Reshma Shetty, Steve Wasserman, & Kelly Drinkwater


By the conclusion of this laboratory investigation, the student will be able to:

  • Explain how synthetic biology as an engineering discipline differs from genetic engineering.
  • Define and properly use synthetic biology terms: system, gain, tuning
  • Define and properly use molecular genetics terms: two component system, transcriptional activation, phosphorylation
  • Relate the bacterial photography system to the two component signaling system.
  • Model a biological system using electronic parts and a computer program.
  • Explain the role that modeling can play in design, and name some ways that models differ from reality.


If you have not had a lesson on how the bacterial photography system works, go read the first half of the design assignment page.

Part I: TinkerCell

Part II. Electronic vs Biological Circuits

Part III. U-do-it Bacterial Photograph

Data Sharing

When you've finished your work on any part of this activity, upload your data to the link on the BioBuilder site that's here. You'll be able to compare what you've done to what other BioBuilders around the country have tried.