tutions. Synthetic Biology demands that biologists, chemists, physicists, and mathematicians work together with engineers. The deep philosophical divide between what might be called “pure science” and “engineering” must be bridged. In Synthetic Biology, understanding, manipulation, and application are intimately linked, and we need to provide an academic culture along with an appropriate infrastructure that allows academics to simultaneously explore multiple aspects of this field.
Another challenge is the gap that exists between academics and industry. This gap is most severe when one considers partnerships between basic sciences and industry, because the science fields lack the interface that engineering-based fields have traditionally had with industry. Mechanisms need to be put in place to enable academics, together with industry partners, to move from the proof of principle experiment in a petri plate (or the like) to the industrial scale.
Concurrent with the above, a shift must occur within the funding agency culture. Long-term strategic plans could be envisioned that both stimulate and incentivize cooperation among diverse disciplines and agencies to solve common foundational problems. Rigorous mechanisms for effectively evaluating new science coming from a new field need to be imagined.
Critically, we need a fundamental change in communication both within and outside the scientific community. Within the greater scientific community, Synthetic Biologists must move research beyond the border of a particular discipline. Going forward, scientists must be able to coherently explain the intellectual merit and relevant application of the work along with the technology and molecular mechanisms underpinning it to a broad scientific audience. Likewise, it is the job of the scientist to help non-scientists become good consumers of science. Outreach is especially critical in the Synthetic Biology field because the work can blur the distinction between animate and inanimate objects and therefore the research can potentially have an extreme ethical, religious, and social impact. Finally, our government needs to wrestle with balancing and promoting scientific innovation in Synthetic Biology with its serious safety and ethical considerations.
How can Synthetic Biology be taught in schools in order to engage students in biology? How can we teach Synthetic Biology in a way that integrates it with other sciences and engineering?