Not sure where to begin? Community Projects are a great place to get started doing research in our lab, to meet other members, and to collaborate at the bench! Join us to see if one is the right fit for you. There's an organism for everyone: fungi, bacteria, or plants!
Community Projects are group research projects that meet weekly and are run out of our lab. Participants pay $100/month to be members of Genspace and have the opportunity to explore advanced lab techniques in a supportive and collaborative environment. Community Members may participate in multiple projects. You can sign up to join a community project here.
Learn More About Our Community Projects
Open Plant Collaboration
Scientists have been engineering plants since the 1970s, but they have been increasingly used in synthetic biology because they can assemble elaborate proteins (eg antibodies) that other organisms just can’t. Genspace hopes to join an international consortium of research on the Open Plant Project to use liverwort M. polymorpha to generate complex proteins.
M. polymorpha has traits that make it ideal for bioengineering. Its small size and fast lifecycle, allows experiments to be carried out quickly and easily. We will start with the basics: cloning and propagating liverwort cultures. The first engineering aspect of the project will be to “domesticate” this organism, making it easier for researchers to work with, followed by practicing transformation procedures to make our plants glow. As group members learn to work with this plant, we will begin building novel circuits and expressing interesting proteins such as antibodies, cytochromes, and inteins.
Optogenetics is a genetic tool to make cells responsive to light. In some cases it has been used to heal blindness, and in others it has been used to manipulate and understand animal behavior by switching on and off neurons in the brain. In synthetic biology, optogenetics is increasingly used to induce expression of desired genes in bacteria and yeast. Optogenetic systems are easy to assemble and control within cell cultures.
Group members will start exploring by constructing optogenetic systems that display colors as outputs. Once we learn the system we can harness optogenetics to control gene expression in 2-D using different combinations of red, green, and blue light. Some potential results might be bacterial photographs, patterned biomaterials, and inducible control of useful enzymes like Taq polymerase. The project will provide a fantastic learning experience and an introduction to cutting edge synthetic biology techniques for controlling living systems.
Expressive matter: biomaterials
Synthetic biologists see living matter as programmable and malleable material. The results that arise from these discoveries open possibilities for more sustainable manufacturing techniques, new material possibilities, and new media for design exploration and expression. Inherently collaborative and transdisciplinary, biodesign raises questions about the scientific process, the place of creativity in innovative spaces, and the ways in which we must be critically engaged with the material world around us.
Group members will work with different biology-inspired design techniques and materials to create prototypes and proposed solutions for design problems. The project will begin with explorations into “what is a biomaterial” and move forward into a deeper understanding of how we can use biomaterials in different ways. Using the lab, participants will engage with different materials each meeting and apply their own personal expertise and interests to the creation and exhibition of a design project.