Synthetic Biology Teacher Workshop

Grade Level(s): High School Science

Date(s): July 24-28, 2023

Location: Thomas Hall, NC State University's Central Campus, Raleigh, NC

Cost: Stipend provided - see details below

Description: This five-day-long workshop for biology teachers will provide hands-on training in basic recombinant DNA technology and synthetic biology. Workshop participants will employ mini-versions of standard laboratory equipment to implement a series of molecular and synthetic biology methods to generate a recombinant DNA construct. The techniques covered in the workshop include plasmid DNA isolation, gel electrophoresis, restriction digest, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), Circular Polymerase Extension Cloning (CPEC), competent cell preparation, bacterial transformation, and blue-white selection of bacterial colonies. The modules you will learn have been beta-tested in the hands of 43 AP Bio students at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh.

Besides receiving hands-on training, workshop attendees will participate in several information sessions on available molecular cloning technologies (SLIC/Gibson/SLiCE and type II S methods Golden Gate/MoClo/GoldenBraid), synthetic genetic devices, metabolic engineering, synthetic cells, and practical SynBio applications (from healthcare to warfare).  The Registry of Synthetic Parts and the iGEM competition will be introduced to alert the teachers about potential avenues for their students to pursue. The workshop will conclude with a discussion on the future of the SynBio field, its promise to provide solutions to everyday challenges, and on ethical considerations.

For more information on the workshop content please see last year's agenda linked here: 2022 Workshop Agenda.

Teacher Testimonials from the 2022 Workshop:

“This workshop gave me a thorough background into the processes of synthetic biology and the processes behind the labs, that will directly translate into more accurate, complete and detailed lessons for my biology students. Every teacher that teaches genetics or biotechnology needs to attend this workshop!”

“The information I learned was very valuable this week. I am able to bring back to my students a wealth of knowledge about synthetic biology, the confidence to try new activities with my students, and I can also talk about the NC State campus and the various programs they have to offer students I teach that would like to pursue more knowledge in the content area. I feel every biology teacher should have this experience because the field of biotechnology is ever changing and science teachers need to be kept up to date on the latest research and discoveries so they can teach content correctly.”

“The SynBio workshop has advanced by lab technique and challenged my understanding of synthetic biology and genetics far beyond what I expected and hoped to take away. This has been one of, if not THE only workshop I have done that has pushed me in my thinking and understanding of biology. I am grateful to have learned from the leading experts.”

“This workshop allowed me an unforgettable experience to learn about in depth concepts within a hands on settings. I can now confidently take these concepts and labs back to my classroom and introduce students to synthetic biology.”

“Most students, and even teachers, are not properly exposed to this new and ever-developing science. This workshop teaches and potentially supplies teachers with the resources they need to bring learners back to the forefront of science.”

“This is THE MOST helpful workshop I've been to in FOUR YEARS that helps me to teach SCIENCE in my classes!”

"I have learned more in these 5 days than in the past 5 years-- both in terms of knowledge of genetics and genomics and activities I can bring to my classroom."

2023 Dates & Times - The workshop will be held July 24-28, 2023. Anticipated workshop hours will be from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM each day.

Cost - The workshop is free! Participants will receive an honorarium ($100/day) for attendance for a total of $500 for full participation.

Campus Housing - Housing will be provided for anyone more than 35 miles from campus in dormitory-style accommodations at NC State University, checking in on July 23rd and checking out on July 28th. Teachers within the 35-mile radius are expected to commute each day.

Parking - Campus parking permits will be provided for each participant.

Academic Year Support - After the workshop, the mini-equipment, lab supplies, and reagents will be made available to all trained teachers free of charge on a two-week rental basis from our small equipment lending library. This would enable trained teachers to apply their newly acquired molecular skills in their owns classrooms. The experimental modules taught at the workshop can be implemented in the context of Biology curriculum units on Evolution and Genetics (to facilitate teaching the concepts of structure and function of DNA and DNA technologies) and/or Molecular Biology (to demonstrate the Central Dogma of Biology).

Application Process - All workshops spots are filled at this time. You are welcome to apply if you wish to be added to the waitlist. If space becomes available we will contact you. 

Contact(s): Scott Ragan - By email ( or by phone (919-515-5610).

Application Deadline: IMPORTANT NOTES: All workshops spots are filled at this time. You are welcome to apply if you wish to be added to the waitlist. If space becomes available we will contact you.  Applications are accepted using NC State University's REPORTER registration system. If you have not previously used REPORTER you can sign up for a free account and log into the system as a Guest (for individuals external to NC State). Only your name and email address are required to sign up for an account. This opportunity is open to both pre-service and in-service teachers. As such if a registration question does not apply to you simply note the question is "not applicable" when completing the application.