Research-driven education: An introductory course to systems and synthetic biology

R.W. Smith*, Luis Garcia Morales, V.A.P. Martins dos Santos, E. Saccenti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Systems and Synthetic Biology are complementary fields emerging side-by-side into mainstream scientific research. Whilst systems biologists focus on understanding natural systems, synthetic biologists wish to modify, adapt and re-purpose biological systems towards certain desired goals, for example enhancing efficiency and robustness of desired biological traits. In both fields, data analysis, predictive mathematical modelling, experimental design, and controlled experimentation are crucial to obtain reproducible results and understand how applications can be scaled to larger systems and processes. As such, students from Life Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics backgrounds must be taught fundamentals in biological systems, experimental techniques, mathematics, and data analysis/statistics. In addition, students must be trained for future multidisciplinary careers, where the interaction and communication between experimental and modelling researchers is fundamental. With the acceleration of technological developments (both computational and experimental) continuing unabated, educators need to bridge the increasing gap between fundamentally-required knowledge and skills that students need to pursue future academic or industrial research projects. In this paper, we will discuss how we have re-designed an introductory course in Systems and Synthetic Biology at Wageningen University and Research (Netherlands) that is targeted simultaneously to mathematical/computational students with an interest in biology and experimental methods, and to Life Science students interested in learning how biological systems can be mathematically analysed and modelled. The course highlights the links between fundamental methodologies and recently developed technologies within the Systems and Synthetic Biology fields. The course was re-designed for the 2021/22 academic year, we report that students from biology and biotechnology programmes graded their satisfaction of the course as 4.4 out of 5. We discuss how the course can act as a gateway to advanced courses in Systems Biology-oriented curricula (comprising: data infrastructure, modelling, and experimental synthetic biology), and towards future research projects.
Original languageEnglish
Article number981800
JournalFrontiers in Systems Biology
Volume2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2022

Keywords

  • systems biology, synthetic biology, education, DBTL, genetic circuit

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