A Primer in Biological Research at Tufts
Biology and the life sciences have experienced extensive innovations over the last half
century. Researchers at Tufts have been consistent contributors to these major advancements
making their work pertinent teaching material for students interested in pursuing research
opportunities. In this course, undergraduates will not only be able to explore the landscape of
biological research performed at Tufts, but engage in discussions with the faculty behind it.
Over the course of the semester, the students will become acquainted with various research
publications by creating presentations, drafting proposals, and discussing the research with
faculty and peers. The course will culminate in group proposals in which the students develop
a potential research endeavor based on the principles examined throughout the course.
Students will have the opportunity to have these proposals funded with the help of the Tufts
Synthetic Biology team.
The goal of the Tufts Synthetic Biology team has been to establish an undergraduate team of
researchers who will work closely with select faculty to take part in an annual competition,
learn about research on campus, discuss bioethics, and learn how to write a research proposal.
We believe the best way to intellectually prime and train undergraduates who want to take
part in this highly independent research project is through a class which exposes them not
only to the technical aspects of the molecular biology techniques involved but also to the
administrative necessities of running an independent lab. Students taking this course will be
prepared to pursue undergraduate research in a professor’s lab or as a member of the Tufts
Synthetic Biology team.
|| Andrew Camilli
|| 1. Cholera transmission: the host, pathogen and bacteriophage dynamic
2. Evolutionary consequences of intra-patient phage predation on microbial populations
3. A bacteriophage encodes its own CRISPR/Cas adaptive response to evade host innate immunity
| Cabot 703
|| Bacteriophage Conference
|| Cabot 701, 702, 703
|| Michael Levin
|| 1. Bioelectrical Mechanisms for Programming Growth and Form: Taming Physiological Networks for Soft Body Robotics |
2. Endogenous bioelectrical networks store non-genetic patterning information during development and regeneration
3. Reprogramming cells and tissue patterning via bioelectrical pathways: molecular mechanisms and biomedical opportunities
4. The wisdom of the body: future techniques and approaches to morphogenetic fields in regenerative medicine, developmental biology and cancer
| 196 Boston Ave, Suite 2500
|| Fiorenzo Omenetto
|| 1. Stabilization of vaccines and antibiotics in silk and eliminating the cold chain |
2. Silk-Based Conformal, Adhesive, Edible Food Sensors
3. Implantable, multifunctional, bioresorbable optics
4. Optional: New Opportunities for an Ancient Material
| Pearson 106
|| Nikhil Nair
|| 1. Selective reduction of xylose to xylitol from a mixture of hemicellulosic sugars
2. Evolution in Reverse: Engineering a d-Xylose-Specific Xylose Reductase
| Cabot 703
|| Jonathan Garlick
|| Pearson 106
|| Soha Hassoun
|| Probabilistic Pathway Construction
|| Cabot 702
|| David Walt
|| Pearson 106
|| Joshua Kritzer
|| 1. Beyond discovery: probes that see, grab and poke
2. Comprehensive analysis of loops at protein-protein
interfaces for macrocycle design
3. Peptide Bicycles that Inhibit the Grb2 SH2 Domain
| Cabot 703
To impart familiarity and a thorough understanding of the components involved in the research,
design, development, and experimentation associated with the life sciences, for real
world experience and application. Students, particularly underclassman, taking the course will
gain insight into the landscape of research at Tufts so that they may become involved more
- Overview research in Life Sciences at Tufts
- Fundamental molecular biology techniques
- Current methods for genomic modification
- Ethical considerations of research
- Human practices
Required readings are listed in the schedule. The below are additional readings for further knowledge on the topic of synthetic biology.
1) Geoff Baldwin, Kitney Richard I, Travis Bayer, Freemont Paul S, Tom Ellis, Karen
Polizzi, Guy-Bary Stan. Synthetic Biology: A Primer
2) Bohannon, J. (2011). The Life Hacker. Science, 1236-1237.
3) Brent, E., Singh, R., & Winters, P. (2011). Synthetic Biology: Regulating Industry Uses
of New Biotechnologies. Science, 1254-1256.
5) Church, G. (2012). Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and
Ourselves. Basic Books.
6) David, G. (2009). The Machinery of Life. Copernicus.
7) Enriquez, J. (2005). As the Future Catches You. Crown Business.
8) Khalil, A., & Collins, J. (2010). Synthetic biology: Applications Come of Age. Nature,
9) Schwille, P. (2011). Bottom-Up Synthetic Biology: Engineering in a Tinkerer’s World.
10) Steven, B., & Sismour, M. (2005). Synthetic biology. Nature Reviews Genetics, 533-543.
Before guest lectures, the class will receive papers written by the visiting lecturer. A one-
page summary and reflection of the publication is to be completed for the following class
during which discussion of the article will occur. All students must also be prepared for the
question and answer session which will follow the guest lecture.
For a set amount of time each class, students will divide into their groups to discuss the
semester project and pose questions to the instructors. Project checkpoints will also be
required for the 4th, 7th, and 9th weeks of the course to ensure all students are progressing at a
Final Project Description:
All semester projects include the following:
- 3 project checkpoints
- At minimum, a single page summary of the student’s role within and understanding of
- A presentation to the class
- (Group) Synthetic Biology Proposals (7-10 pages)
- (Individual) Extended Proposals from Publications Review (3-5 Pages)
A final paper detailing a project proposal for a future synthetic biology project that could
be pursued by the iGEM team.