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CHE.496: Biological Systems Design Seminar

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Course Overview

This course was designed by an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia to facilitate a constructive learning environment for undergraduate students interested in synthetic biology. The main goal of this course is to introduce the engineering principles and tools necessary to design, model and build a functional biological system and, in doing so, program novel cellular function and behavior to solve engineering problems and test biological hypotheses.

Synthetic biology is emerging as a new engineering discipline, applying engineering principles such as the standardization of modular components, the hierarchical abstraction of complex systems, and the characterization of both components and systems to biology, allowing the decoupling of construction from design. Novel biological systems may be engineered to solve industrial, medical and environmental engineering problems such as the bioremediation of toxic waste, the microbial production of the anti-malarial drug artemisinin, and the biosynthesis of hydrogen or butanol as an alternative fuel source.

Course coordinator: Professor Erik Fernandez
Meeting times: W 6-6:50pm, R 7-7:50pm
Questions? Contact George McArthur


  • Attendance
  • Read material for each meeting
  • Write a response to each reading assignment
  • Lead discussions (rotational basis)
  • Complete 3 main projects


  • Summer research!