Open Source Microfluidics for Synthetic Biology

Dr. David Sun Kong of the Bioengineering Systems & Technologies group designed and instructed a two-week intensive course for MIT graduate students entitled “Open-Source Microfluidics for Synthetic Biology” during MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP), January
2014. The goal of the course was to expose students to the latest research in the fields of synthetic biology, microfluidics, digital fabrication, and open-source hardware, and in the lab, to fabricate and utilize a novel 3D fluidic device for genetic circuit assembly. Students developed proficiency with 3D software design tools, 3D printing, microfluidic device design, DNA-based genetic circuit assembly, and bacterial transformation. Using these skills, students successfully assembled genetic circuits in their devices, tested the circuits in cells, and uploaded their designs to “Metafluidics,” an open repository of hardware components for microfluidics. The premise of the course was an advanced research project in and of itself, as 3D printed fluidic devices have only recently been explored, and no one has utilized such devices for genetic circuit assembly.

The course was taught for 3 hours each day for 9 total sessions and was held at both MIT Lincoln Laboratory Beaver Works (BW) and the MIT Synthetic Biology Center (SBC). While more than 30 students enrolled, ultimately 15 were selected to participate: 13 graduate students from the Media Laboratory, Synthetic Biology Center, Mechanical Engineering, and Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), along with two undergraduates. Students were selected based on technical experience, which ranged from research at the cuttingedge of synthetic biology and digital fabrication, but largely enthusiasm for the material.