kings100bSynthetic Biology in Cambridge

Research activities and studentship opportunities at the University of Cambridge. There is an index of research groups engaged in Synthetic Biology related work, with funding news and resources for people considering work in Cambridge. See a collection of web sites with extensive local information.

Research news at Cambridge University

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One millionth Raspberry Pi baked in UK

One millionth Raspberry Pi baked in UK

Can we call it a Raspevolution yet? The UK (the Sony-owned Pencoed factory in South Wales, to be precise), has baked its one millionth Raspberry Pi. Announcing the figure in a blog post on its company website, the Raspberry Pi Foundation says that a total of 1.75 million of the diminutive computers have been built to date. Three quarters of a million...

Hits:456 Cambridge news

Top universities in the UK

Top universities in the UK

UK universities scored particularly well for the employability of their graduates Continue reading the main story The UK now boasts six of the world's top 20 universities, according to a new global table. Edinburgh and King's College London have edged into the top 20 of the QS World University rankings. Cambridge, UCL, Imperial and Oxford all made it into the top 10. But John O'Leary...

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OpenLabTools in Cambridge

OpenLabTools in Cambridge

The OpenLabTools Project is a new initiative that will provide a forum and knowledge centre for the development of low cost and open access scientific tools at the University of Cambridge, with an emphasis on undergraduate and graduate teaching and research. The programme starts this year with a number of projects that will be offered to establish the core components...

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Synchronized Pipetting

Synchronized Pipetting

by Mary Abraham and Jochen Rink Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge We investigated the effect of using music to enhance the sub-optimal system of undergraduate laboratory research assistants (Researcheria virginium). Many aspects of the interaction between the undergraduate and the laboratory bench leave much to be desired. We focused on the simplest — yet easily quantifiable — laboratory skill, the...

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Cambridge: the UK’s most successful city

Cambridge: the UK’s most successful city Cambridge has come first in a report comparing cities across the country by Jonny Barlow Wednesday 25th January 2012, 18:21 GMT Cambridge’s economy has ranked first in an annual Cities Outlook report, suggesting that that Cambridge could play a significant role in driving the country’s economic successes amidst a bleak national picture. This is in...

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University Publishing Online adds six more academic presses

University Publishing Online adds six more academic presses

  From the press release: Cambridge University Press is pleased to announce the addition of six more academic presses to its University Publishing Online (UPO) platform. 2012 will see the addition of content from Anthem Press, Boydell & Brewer, Edinburgh University Press, Nottingham University Press, Pickering & Chatto and the University of Adelaide Press. Launched in October 2011...

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Geeky Cambridge

Geeky Cambridge

Cambridge is 'geekiest' city in the UK. A survey has placed Cambridge as the UK’s technological capital and 'geekiest' city. This puts the city ahead of London, which came only fourth behind fellow technological heavyweights Gloucester and Brighton, claims a new survey by Ebuyer. The University is responsible for training a tech savvy Cambridge population. Oxford proved to be relative luddites as they only managed...

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Improving Science Learning

Improving Science Learning

Less Talk, More Action: Improving Science Learning From The New York Times, By BENEDICT CAREY Published: May 12, 2011 Over the past few years, scientists have been working to transform education from the inside out, by applying findings from learning and memory research where they could do the most good, in the classroom. A study published in the journal Science on Thursday illustrates how promising this...

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Press coverage for the Cambridge iGEM team

Press coverage for the Cambridge iGEM team

 An index of published articles and interviews for iGEM teams at the University of Cambridge - with links to PDFs and audio files.    

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PhD in Cambridge?

PhD Studentships in Cambridge The Board of Graduate Studies manages admission of the University's graduate students. Prospective students should start here - for an introduction to the University of Cambridge, the courses we offer, how to apply for postgraduate study, how your application will be processed, and immigration and other important information. Click here for more information about Cambridge

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Biology at Cambridge

Biology at Cambridge

Click here for the website for the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Undergraduate teaching: The Natural Sciences Tripos is the framework within which most of the science is taught in Cambridge. It is taught by sixteen Departments and includes a wide range of physical and biological sciences and the history and philosophy of science. Postgraduate teaching: The Board of Graduate Studies...

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iGEM2012 recruitment

iGEM2012 recruitment

iGEM is an undergraduate synthetic biology competition where student teams are given a kit of biological parts from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  The aim is to use this kit to design and construct new biological systems and operate them in living cells. The teams will first present the projects at the...

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Bio-Fab Ready to Distribute Building Blocks of Synthetic Life

May 2nd, 2010 by Christopher de la Torre


The first biological design-build facility in the world announced that it will soon be able to synthesize chemicals, fuels and new drugs by manipulating the elements necessary to make microbes. Initiated by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the facility’s product—standardized biological parts made from genetic material—will be made available to both academic and commercial users, shortening development time and lowering research costs in the process.

In its first human practices draft-for-comment report, The BioFab: International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology (BIOFAB) asked the core question of “what is a part?” in biology. The report explores the complexity, boundaries and evolution of biological engineering, and seeks to determine what standardization might mean for the industry.

One of BioFab’s projects—and they all seem quite ambitious—aims to build thousands of biological parts needed to control genetic expression in a select number of organisms. This collection—known as “C. dog.”—will make it possible to manipulate DNA/RNA/Protein synthesis in E. coli (a bacterium) and S. cerevisiae (a budding yeast). The product, to be used to aid researchers, will be released under the terms of a legal framework that enables the free exchange and use of standard biological parts.

Founded at the end of 2009 by bioengineering assistant professor Drew Endy and UC Berkeley’s Adam Arkin, The professionally staffed public-benefit facility represents “the first significant focused investment in the development of open technology platforms underlying and supporting the next generation of biotechnology” ( And with generous funding from the NSF and other prominent organizations, the operation will eventually be able to shell out tens of thousands of standard biological parts each year. While such a program reeks of ethical concerns, head of BioFab’s human practices Gaymon Bennett promises that ethical issues, including safety and security, will be addressed by creating resources that will help researchers make tough decisions. The effort will also create a new legal framework in support of its burgeoning technologies.

BioFab Directors Drew Endy (left) and Adam Arkin

Synthesizing biological parts from genes may have far-reaching ethical implications, but we can’t say it’s altogether a new idea. Designer babies have long been a part of public debate, and recent advancements like MIT’s registry of standard biological parts have paved the way for initiatives like BioFab. But there’s a big difference between making biological parts and figuring out how those parts will work together.

Creating functioning interchangeable biological parts is at the heart of BioFab’s mission. Taking modern synthetic biology’s mantra that a system is an integrated set of components one step further, BioFab will attempt to define, in context, what a component is, building on the assumption that standardized ‘parts’ don’t yet exist, and that such parts are made, not discovered.

It was clear from early on in biology’s synthetic saga that DNA’s unpredictable methods of assembly would make standardization a challenge, but several years into the new millennium a proposal was made as to how restriction enzymes could isolate DNA “BioBricks” that could effectively “mix and match” with one another using complimentary strands of overhanging base pairs. While this provided a solution to putting engineered DNA components together, it couldn’t solve how to get them to work together in predictable ways. It turns out that sans context, standardized biological parts are little more than words of an indecipherable language.

Quantifying and categorizing genetic structures—both upon which genome sequencing is based—are not in themselves new goals. The present conundrum lies not in the ability to break things down into workable units, but rather in how to reverse the process and create anew using those units. Such is the driving force behind bioengineering, and now BioFab.

[Image credit: BIOFAB, Margot Hartford]
[Source: BIOFABStanford School of Medicine]


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Research Studies

PhD Studentships in Cambridge

The Board of Graduate Studies manages admission of the University's graduate students. Prospective students should start here - for an introduction to the University of Cambridge, the courses we offer, how to apply for postgraduate study, how your application will be processed, and immigration and other important information.

Click here for more information about Cambridge

OpenLabTools: open technology in Cambridge


The OpenLabTools Project is a new initiative for the development of low cost and open access scientific tools at the University of Cambridge. With support from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, student projects include data acquisition, sensing, actuating, processing and 3D manufacturing, see the website.