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Methods Mol Biol. 2012;852:273-83. doi: 10.1007/978-1-61779-564-0_20.

The Build-a-Genome course.

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High Throughput Biology Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Build-a-Genome is an intensive laboratory course at Johns Hopkins University that introduces undergraduates to the burgeoning field of synthetic biology. In addition to lectures that provide a comprehensive overview of the field, the course contains a unique laboratory component in which the students contribute to an actual, ongoing project to construct the first synthetic eukaryotic cell, a yeast cell composed of man-made parts. In doing so, the students acquire basic molecular biology skills and gain a truly "graduate student-like experience" in which they take ownership of their projects, troubleshoot their own experiments, present at frequent laboratory meetings, and are given 24-h access to the laboratory, albeit with all the guidance they will need to complete their projects during the semester. In this chapter, we describe the organization of the course and provide advice for anyone interested in starting a similar course at their own institution.

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