IDP FINAL PROJECT JOURNEY
I want my Final Project to…
I want to show that I can dig really deep into complex topics which I have no previous knowledge of. I believe that this is a skill that is highly desirable by any kind of employer (consultancy, in-house design, etc). Furthermore, I think that this project could potentially become a start-up, because it’s rooted in a rapidly evolving field that will inevitably change our life – but we will see.
I’m interested in/inspired by…
Synthetic Biology is a rapidly growing field and it is just starting. When compared to electrical engineering we are in the process of designing standard parts (like resistors and transistors). In biology it is sequences of DNA – an example for a part could be a sequence to make a cell glow. Electrical engineering took a few decades from discovery to high accessibility (learning-kits and Arduino). The development in biology will be much faster, because of the previous knowledge in software and hardware. There are a few research groups already exploring bioCAD software – similar to traditional CAD, it assists the planing of biological systems. But this technology has certain ethical and social limitations/opportunities and we have the ability to communicate more efficient than during the development of electrical engineering. The large topic of ‘citizen science’ is just one aspect of this emerging field. Overall the whole area is totally unexplored ground and because of this it is so exciting.
My current understanding is that there is no accessible way to plan, engineer and test biological systems. That is a huge opportunity. I’m considering to design/prototype a whole ecosystem to develop, simulate and engineer simple organisms (yeast, e. coli).
This project is relevant because…
This project is relevant for me because there is so much to explore and try. It is an opportunity to go crazy in every aspect – theoretically and technically. It is important to society because biotechnology will change the way we live – if we want it or not. The more we know about the technologies that shape our future, the better. Science and technology should not be a privilege of large companies and governments.
During my Final Project I would like to challenge myself in…
This whole project is one big challenge! I have no idea (ok, right now I understand the basics) of synthetic biology. There are a lot of variables I do not even know of and this project is predestined to fail – that is why it is so exciting :-)
I can base my work on a general understanding of common design methods, as well as technological knowledge and most importantly my curiosity. I need to rely heavily on the input of experts and user research – an area that I am not comfortable with.
My starting point
Currently, I think of this project as a mixture of service and technology. I like the word ‘ecosystem’. Like Arduino, it will consist of multiple parts: Software, hardware, knowledge base, etc.
My explorations so far
In the last few weeks, I started to develop a small network of experts. I know a few biologists who can explain the hard science and I know a few designers (outside CIID :) who could be potential interviewees. Actually, this was the largest part of my research so far.
I read a few books to get a general understanding of synthetic biology, the challenges they are facing and the design opportunities. Lately (last Wednesday) we started an online course about DIY biology at the local hackerspace (labitat/biologigaragen). My knowledge is quite fragmented right now, but it will hopefully get more refined over time.