We have the best biotech classes, workshops & free events in New York City!

please note that all our classes are hands-on in the lab. safety gear and materials are provided. no previous science experience necessary!


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9/21 Genomics in the Human Body: Host Genetics and the Gut Microbiome 2-4:30PM $50/$25

Human genomics – analyzing whole-genome or whole-exome data to find potentially pathogenic variants – and (meta)genomics of the gut microbiome are rapidly evolving fields in biomedical and translational research. These vastly different approaches to “personalized” or “precision” medicine can both require immense computational power and bioinformatics background when implemented on a large scale. In this hands-on workshop, you will learn the basics of human genomics, interpreting variant calling data to identify clinically relevant variants using sample genomic data. We will also cover analysis of real gut microbiome samples sequenced using metagenomics, including identifying key players in the microbiome community and potentially relevant functional pathways.

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Dr. Medini Annavajhala is an engineer and microbiologist who loves all things related to bioinformatics and genomics. She has a background in pathogen genomics and multidrug resistance, human and environmental microbiomes, and engineering of biological processes. She received her doctorate in 2017 from the Department of Earth & Environmental Engineering at Columbia University, where she studied bacterial communities used to treat wastewater and food waste. Medini is now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Columbia University Medical Center, studying the human microbiome and the emergence and evolution of multidrug-resistant bacteria in immunocompromised patients.


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9/26 FREE TALK: EmotiBit, Internal Context and the Future of Augmented Cognition 7-9PM

Come hear Sean Montgomery talk about his lab's latest creation: 

EmotiBit (https://www.EmotiBit.com/), a wearable open-source sensor for capturing emotional, physiological, and movement data.

Electrical and chemical signals are constantly traveling throughout our brains and bodies, carrying sensations, thoughts, emotions and our reactions to the world around us. Studying these signals and how they are altered by external stimuli and internal contexts gives us a window into ourselves and how we can enhance our health, well-being and capabilities in the 21st century. Sean will discuss how sensing these signals from the body can be used in research, art, DIY projects, education and, perhaps, helping to alter the future of human cognition.

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Sean Montgomery is a technologist, educator and new-media artist in New York City. Sean's work uses research methodologies combined with emerging technologies to take a trans-disciplinary look at the human condition and examine the changing relationship between the physical and metaphysical world. After finishing his PhD in neuroscience, Sean founded Connected Future Labs (http://www.ConnectedFutureLabs.com/), an agile R&D consulting group that utilizes a depth of expertise in circuits, algorithms and design to bring cutting-edge technology out of the research lab and create real-world applications. Continuing to develop the synergy between science, art and technology, Sean's lab is launching EmotiBit (https://www.EmotiBit.com/), a truly wearable open-source sensor module for capturing high-quality emotional, physiological, and movement data from the body.


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10/7 pcr & pizza night 6-9PM

Come on down to BwoB's regular Open Night! Pizza, beer, and Lab work. Extract DNA from yourself and amplify it using PCR to test yourself for a CCR5 mutation, or just relax and have some great conversations around democratizing science. No charge, but donations for the pizza and beer greatly appreciated!


Past Classes, Workshops & Events

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6/5 The Future Is Fungi: How Mushrooms Can Save Our World

Fungi are the keystone species that interconnect every facet of life in our world. This class will highlight the supreme influence these ancient and often overlooked organisms have upon our health, society, and environment and also provide a succinct peek into the Fungal Queendom from the perspectives of ecology, anthropology, pharmacology, and bioremediation. The class will also feature a brief workshop component that teaches attendees how to perform low tech and low cost mushroom cultivation techniques that can be replicated at home with upcycled materials.



5/22 Patenting Biotechnology: CRISPR and Protein Based Biomaterials  7-9PM

Franklin S. Abrams, Ph.D., J.D. will provide an introduction to the basic concepts of intellectual property law. He will discuss patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets and generally address the rationale for obtaining intellectual property rights. We will then focus more closely on patenting in biotechnology and the life sciences. The emphasis will be on genome editing using CRISPR and clothing made from spider silk protein that has been engineered and produced in microorganisms using synthetic biology. We will review some patent claims, consider strategies for navigating the patent landscape in crowded fields, and understand how vigorous patenting can spur innovation.    


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6/15 How To Run Mycelium: A Fungi Tissue Culture Workshop 2-5PM

This workshop will provide an answer with an introduction to the theory and practice of Laboratory Mycology. Working with mushrooms from both the grocery and forest, you'll learn how to formulate agar media, culture fungal tissue samples on petri dishes, and understand the process of mycelial expansion that is essential to perform successful mushroom cultivation.

These more 'scientific' methods are used to propagate from cuttings, to isolate rare species, and to set up commercial production for medicinal use mushrooms such as Reishi. It's also the best way to start mycelium (mushroom 'root') cultures as a prelude to creating bricks, furniture and artworks with mycelium grown through substrates.


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7/13-7/20 P235-7864.1M19 - Biotech Boot Camp

ASPDP Professional Development for NYC STEM teachers

This course is designed to provide participants with the best practices to integrate biotechnology labs into classroom curriculum. After completion of this course, teachers will have completed the set of essential lab techniques that enabled the scientific revolution in biotechnology, and be ready to implement in their own classrooms . The four lab techniques being covered will be bacterial transformation, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), restriction enzymes, and gel electrophoresis. The class will emphasize ways to promote understanding of the molecular basis for and scientific background of each laboratory technique. 



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4/20 Food detective workshop 3-6pm

Engineered biology is everywhere, including many of the foods you eat. At the same time, the practice of biology is becoming more and more democratized as community labs like Biotech without Borders give non-scientists the ability to do their own testing and research. In this workshop you will learn a technique to test for one of the most common genetic modifications in food. Bring a sample to test, and we'll show you how. No prior lab experience necessary!


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4/24 Human Bacterial Relationships In Health and Disease 6-8pm

Bacteria helps us and hurts us. We will discuss the reciprical relationship between bacteria and humans. Learn what genes in bacteria can cause disease in humans.


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4/26 Lab Skills: Cutting and Measuring DNA 6-10pm

You will prepare your own DNA “ruler” by cutting a circular piece of DNA with enzymes called restriction endonucleases that act as tiny molecular scissors. In this workshop you will get experience using restriction enzymes, pipettes, gel electrophoresis equipment, heat block and transilluminator to visualize your work.


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4/28 Bioinformatics: Environmental Metagenomics 3-6pm

In this workshop we will learn the methods for identifying microbial species with DNA sequencing data, and understand what their functions are and how that can inform decisions or urban design. We will use the Pathomap dataset and each participant will obtain the metagenomic sequences of their favorite subway station.


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5/1 Talk by oron catts: Would 'Lab Grown Everything' Really Save Us? 7PM

The Tissue Culture & Art Project (Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr) is recognized as the first to grow (2000) and to eat (2003) lab grown meat as well as the first to grow tissue engineered leather (2004). It encompassed critical art projects that were geared towards highlighting the radical shifts in our understanding of, and our relationships with the concept of life. More than ten years later cellular agriculture and biofabrication are hailed as solutions to many environmental issues. But is this really the case? This talk will begin with the original projects, follow the trajectory of the fields of cellular agriculture and biofabrication, and present some of the recent works of The Tissue Culture & Art Project that are in dialogue with these recent developments, including a series of off grid incubators powered by compost.


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5/4, 5/11 & 5/18 Biotech 101 3-7PM

Class is three four-hour sessions on Saturdays.

The original biotechnology class for the general public developed by Dr. Ellen Jorgensen who has been teaching it in biohackerspaces since 2011. No previous science experience necessary!

Have you ever wanted to program a living cell? This is the class for you! We assume no prior knowledge of biology, and take you through the process of genetic engineering step-by-step. You will learn the basic techniques that enabled the biotech revolution, including gel electrophoresis, PCR and bacterial transformation. Extract DNA from your own cells and anaylyze it for markers of maternal ancestry.  Learn how genes are moved from one organism into another. Cut and paste DNA using enzymes and load your DNA circuits into a bacterial cell. This is a hands-on class, so wear comfy shoes- you will be at the bench most of the time.

Minimum age is 13, and anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a parent.


 
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lab skills: learn spectrophotometry

In this workshop you will learn to accurately use micropipettors and a spectrophotometer to analyze the concentration of an unknown. This is a workhorse laboratory technique and the basis of innumerable biological and chemical assays. You will get experience using micropipettes, the analytical balance, spectrophotometer and a graphing method of your choosing (paper, Excel or R).


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grow your own: green yeast for St. Patrick’s day

How do genetic engineers work with yeast? Come to this fun St. Patrick's Day workshop and find out! You will learn how Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer's yeast) became an important laboratory model for higher cells (eucaryotes) and how it is being used today as a workhorse microbe to produce everything from drugs to perfume. We'll cover all the information you need to grow this organism and keep it happy in the lab. And of course, we'll load a genetic program producing a glowing green protein (GFP) into some laboratory yeast in honor of the holiday.


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Molecular Mycology MegaWorkshop

Have you ever wanted to go deeper, down to the molecular scale? To comprehend the biochemistry that allow fungi to perform amazing feats such as digesting materials both organic and mineral, producing of some of the most potent antibiotic & antiviral compounds found in nature, and evidencing cellular intelligence by transmission of information about their environment via their multinucleate structure? This course is an elementary introduction to the molecular biology of fungi, where you will learn the  underlying theory via lectures, each followed by a hands-on practical laboratory component:

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12/13 -12/14 BIOFABRICATE

Biofabricate 2018


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Two Day Elementary & Advanced Mycology Intensive

Have you ever wanted to dive deeper into the world of Fungi, from both a theoretical perspective and practical approach?

Then you should absolutely make it to Biotech Without Borders on December 15th & 16th for a unique two-day mycology intensive.

These sessions will provide you with a plethora of information and tangible skills on both elementary and advanced levels.

While morphological identification and taxonomy are crucial to recognize the multitude of mushroom species in the field, the importance of fungal biology and their overall role in ecology isn’t always immediately apparent. Improving scientific literacy through the lens of mycology is a pivotal step towards participating in citizen science. By collectively acquiring fundamental information on fungi, we can learn more about these fantastic organisms and develop skills towards applications that can help build better world for tomorrow.

This workshop will be led by William Padilla-Brown and Craig M. Trester, two citizen scientists who seek to apply the regenerative capacity of fungi through applied mycology:

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William Padilla-Brown is a self taught social scientist. William’s work focuses on food justice and integration of biological systems to benefit financial and social systems. William has run a non profit and operated MycoSymbiotics, a mushroom research and production business for the past 4 years.

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Craig M. Trester is a citizen scientist whose focus lies in the field of mycology, applying biomimicry and permaculture principles to develop regenerative solutions for a future which faces many challenges. By studying Fungi, he believes novel approaches towards alternative agriculture, pharmacology, and bioremediation can be realized. Outside of the lab Craig is the sole proprietor of MYC.NYC, an applied mycology educational resource based in New York City that teaches the benefits Fungi provide to our health, environment, and society to audiences on academic, research, community, and private levels.


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How To Run Mycelium: a Fungal Tissue Culture Workshop

Most people typically encounter mushrooms either for sale at the market or on the menus of their favorite restaurants, without ever having to search for and identify them in their natural habitats. Which leads the question, what techniques made it possible for humans to go beyond foraging in the woods and cultivate Fungi on demand? This workshop will offer the answer through an elementary introduction to the theory and practice of Laboratory Mycology. Working with mushrooms from both the grocery and forest, you'll learn how to formulate agar media, culture fungal tissue samples on petri dishes, and understand the process of mycelial expansion that is essential to perform successful mushroom cultivation.


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Biomess and other recent works: a Talk by oron catts

Oron Catts is a mesmerizing speaker, whose focus on the semi-living in his work gives him a unique connection to Biotech without Borders. He's here all the way from Perth, Australia. Don't miss this talk!

Biomess, currently on show at the State Art Gallery of Western Australia is a collaboration with the West Australian Museum. The installation includes (mainly) non charismatic specimens from the museum’s collection that defy common ideas about self, gender, identity and individuality as well as liveness, artificiality and technology. In addition to preserved/taxidermised specimens this installation presents living organisms and technologically “designed” and manipulated life forms. It uses luxury retail design tropes to ask what kind of aesthetics should be used when life becomes a commodity or objects of desire. How do we make sense of living forms that were constructed to blur what we consider specimen, scientific tool, product and an art object?

Another related project is titled Crossing Kingdoms. This is a collaboration with the UK National Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology at the University of Edinburgh where we are attempting to fuse human and yeast cell to create a life form the exists across biological kingdoms. The work in progress on this project have been presented recently at the Edinburgh International science Festival.

Lastly the talk will present a fascinating project in which he followed Victor Frankenstein’s footsteps; Oron wanted to find some material evidence to the fictional events described in the book published exactly two hundred years ago. He was particularly interested in Frankenstein’s second attempt to create a life form, a female companion to the creature he created in Ingolstadt. To his surprise, he found some evidence that may shed new light on that chapter of Frankenstein; to the extent that it is quite feasible that Victor Frankenstein failed in his attempt of his second creation and needed to retract his claims for higher moral ground and face this failure. In Oron's own words, "The issue of low success rates in the reproducibility of experiments has dogged science from its very beginning, and makes me wonder if, when scientists retrospectively claim the high moral ground in their research, they do this instead of admitting failure or that they have spent their career barking up the wrong tree? Is this one of the hidden lessons in Shelley’s story?"

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Oron Catts is the Director of SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts, School of Human Sciences, The University of Western Australia.

He is an artist, researcher, designer and curator whose pioneering work with the Tissue Culture and Art Project which he established in 1996 is considered a leading biological art project. In 2000 he co-founded SymbioticA, a biological art research centre at The University of Western Australia. Under Catts’ leadership SymbioticA has gone on to win the inaugural Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica in Hybrid Art (2007) the WA Premier Science Award (2008) and became a Centre for Excellence in 2008.

In 2009 Catts was recognised by Thames & Hudson’s “60 Innovators Shaping our Creative Future” book in the category “Beyond Design”, and by Icon Magazine (UK) as one of the top 20 Designers, “making the future and transforming the way we work”.

Catts interest is Life; more specifically the shifting relations and perceptions of life in the light of new knowledge and it applications. Often working in collaboration with other artists (mainly Dr. Ionat Zurr) and scientists, Catts has developed a body of work that speaks volumes about the need for new cultural articulation of evolving concepts of life.

Catts was a Research Fellow in Harvard Medical School, a visiting Scholar at the Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University, and a Visiting Professor of Design Interaction (2009-2012), and a Professor at Large in Contestable Design (2015-2017) at the Royal College of Arts, London. In 2012-2013 he set up a biological art lab called Biofilia - Base for Biological Art and Design, at the School of Art, Design and Architecture, Aalto University, Helsinki, where he was a Visiting Professor.

Catts’ ideas and projects reach beyond the confines of art; his work is often cited as inspiration to diverse areas such as new materials, textiles, design, architecture, ethics, fiction, and food.

Catts curated nine exhibitions, developed numerous artistic projects and performances. His work was exhibited and collected by museums such as MoMA NY, Mori art Museum, NGV, GoMA, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, Ars Electronica, National Art Museum of China and more. His work was covered by The NY Times, Washington Post, Wired, New Scientist, Time, Newsweek and other TV, radio, print and online media.


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DIY TISSUE CULTURE OF MAMMALIAN CELLS

Henrietta Lacks' cells are immortal. They have been dividing in Petri dishes since the 1940s. How do we keep human cell lines growing endlessly? This workshop will introduce you to tissue culture. Working with a human lung cell line, you will learn what types of media human cells need to grow, how to propagate them and above all how to achieve good sterile technique. As a bonus, you will also use a DIY cell culture setup to isolate live cells from a chicken leg from the supermarket.


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the science of gmos - a free knowscience talk

Is your Thanksgiving Turkey a GMO? Are GMOs safe? Celebrate the holiday with a talk by Kate Bredbenner of Rockefeller University.

Getting information on GMOs from the internet can be a scary experience.This talk will explain the what, why and how of GMOs in an unbiased, informative and scientifically accurate way. Kate will examine real-world examples of GMOs and give a scientist's perspective on the upsides and downsides of the technology.


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who’s reading your genes? a public forum on genomic privacy


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hacking DNA with synthetic biology


cliMaTE CHANGE TRUTHS: Earth in the Hot Seat - A FREE KNOWSCIENCE TALK

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Dr. Ángel G. Muñoz is an Associate Research Scientist in IRI’s climate program; he also leads the Latin American component of the Columbia World Project "Adapting Agriculture to Climate Today, for Tomorrow" (ACToday). Muñoz holds a BS in physics (numerical general relativity), and a PhD in climate sciences (Columbia University, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences). His present research interests are associated with how cross-timescale interferences of climate modes impact predictability and predictive skill of extreme events at subseasonal-to-decadal scales; how these interferences can be used to diagnose misrepresented processes in a hierarchy of atmospheric circulation models; and the development of climate services, especially those regarding food security, vector-borne diseases and lightning.


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The Ecstasy of the False Positive - a talk by richard pell - free

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Richard Pell is the founder and director of the Center for PostNatural History, an organization dedicated to the collection and exposition of life-forms that have been intentionally and heritably altered through domestication, selective breeding, tissue culture or genetic engineering. The Center for PostNatural History operates a permanent museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and produces traveling exhibitions that have appeared in science and art museum throughout Europe and the United States including the Victoria and Albert Museum and Wellcome Collection in London, the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, the CCCB in Barcelona, the ZKM in Karlsruhe, the 2008 Taipei Biennial, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History as well as being featured in National Geographic, Nature Magazine, American Scientist, Popular Science and New Scientist. The CPNH has been awarded a Rockefeller New Media fellowship, a Creative Capital fellowship, a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, and received generous support from Waag Society and the Kindle Project. Pell was award the 2016 Pittsburgh Artist of the Year. He is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.


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Pills, Bricks, and Spies: a Synthetic Biology Story of the Microbiome

A free  talk by Dr. Harris wang

Harris Wang is an Assistant Professor at Columbia University jointly appointed in the Department of Systems Biology and the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology. Dr. Wang received his B.S. degrees in Mathematics and Physics from MIT and his Ph.D. in Biophysics from Harvard University. His research group develops enabling genomic technologies to characterize the mammalian gut microbiome and to engineer these microbes with the capacity to monitor and improve human health. His work has been published in numerous high impact journals including Nature and Science. Dr. Wang is an Investigator of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the recipient of numerous awards, including the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, NSF CAREER, Sloan Research Fellowship, ONR Young Investigator, and was named in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Science. In early 2017, Dr. Wang received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from President Obama, which is “the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.”

http://wanglab.c2b2.columbia.edu/




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Are We Ready for Designer Babies? A Public Forum on Human Genetic Engineering 

Special Event!

Join us at Biotech Without Borders for a public forum around engineering the human genome. For 100 years we have been imagining it in science fiction, but we are now at the point where it may become everyday reality through new technologies such as CRISPR. 

The Forum will begin with a brief talk/question & answer by Dr. Ellen Jorgensen (What You Need To Know About CRISPR) about the newest developments in the area. Then we'll run through some very real scenarios to explore the social, economic and moral implications of editing our own evolution.

Food and drink will be provided!

This event is held in collaboration with the Museum of Science in Boston, who developed the Forum content for their NSF grant "Building With Biology".


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biotech for coders: a crash course in programming dna

DNA is our source code, the molecule that contains all the information necessary to recreate an organism from scratch. The molecular pathways of a cell are similar to electrical circuits. How far can we take this analogy? In this class you will learn how DNA carries information, how genetic circuits are arranged, and how to start programming life instead of machines. By the end of the class, we will load a DNA program into a cell and see the results.


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artificial cells and programmable dna in a test tube

How close are we to mimicking life? Harnessing recent advances in synthetic biology, extracts containing the inner machinery from bacterial cells can be directly programmed with DNA that encodes synthetic gene circuits or networks. They can be used as the 'guts' of an artificial cell, or used in a test tube. "Cell-free" synthetic biology has major applications for rapid design of regulatory circuits and biosensors, but also getting closer to building a functioning cell out of non-living molecules; both to guide our understanding of life at a cellular level and revolutionize engineering of biological systems.

In this workshop, you’ll use a cell-free extract to take first steps in cell-free synthetic biology by designing and programming a logic gate with DNA, expressing DNA in a cell-free extract and visualizing the results.



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developing a bio strategy for your business

a practical workshop with Karl Schmieder

The last 50 years have been dominated by microprocessors, information technology, and the countless ideas people dreamed up to use them. The next 50 will be brimming with living systems designed by people to bring value to their work, their homes, and our society. 

Synthetic biology – the rapidly advancing field concerned with crafting organisms to function as biological machines and making that process easier to engineer – is quickly transforming industries and changing the rules of business. 

If you want to understand how synthetic biology might impact your business, then this class is for you. No prior knowledge of biotechnology is necessary. You’ll gain an overview of synthetic biology, its current applications, and where the field is going. Then, we’ll work on a ‘bio strategy canvas’ to guide your business into this synthetic biology future. The class will be taught by Karl Schmieder, MS/MFA founder messagingLAB and author, What’s Your Bio Strategy?


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free bioentrepreneur talk: how MouSensor is using Super-sniffer mice to digitize the sense of smell

MouSensor, Inc. is an early stage biotech startup based on technology developed at Hunter College of The City University of New York by the company’s co-founders Drs. Paul Feinstein and Charlotte D’Hulst. MouSensor, Inc. generates super sniffer mice to build a live, human nose-on-a-chip with the bold vision to detect, discover and digitize every single smell on this planet; from the fragrances in a perfumer’s palette to the odors associated with diseases such as Parkinson’s. It is the company’s ultimate goal to establish the first-ever Digital Database of Smell, much like the RGB code for vision.

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on Monday December 4th WLIW Channel 21 at 7:30PM watch Hari SreenivasAn's interview with our own Dr. Ellen Jorgensen on the PBS series SciTech Now!

 


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Make Your Own Taq Polymerase

The enzyme Taq polymerase is an essential part of the process of copying DNA via PCR. It is also one of the most expensive parts of the process. In this workshop you will purify your own stash of Taq from an E. coli stain genetically engineered to produce it. You’ll use your new Taq to run a PCR reaction, and take some home with you. Taq is derived from a thermophilic bacteria and is quite stable when frozen!

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Free Talk: Stem Cells and Brain Health


Every single cell in your body comes from a stem cell. Even stem cells come from stem cells! Come learn about these special cells, especially the ones that populate the brain. When these brain stem cells are damaged, neurodevelopmental diseases occur. Cutting-edge research will be presented about defects in brain stem cell division, human diseases, and potential help that stem cell therapy can provide.


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Biohacking for Beginners: A Crash Course in Genetic Engineering
 

Have you ever wanted to program a living cell? This is the class for you! We assume no prior knowledge of biology, and take you through the process of genetic engineering step-by-step. You will learn how DNA is extracted form one organism and loaded into another, how to cut and past DNA code using enzymes, and how to copy, analyze, and preserve DNA circuits.


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Build Your Own Biolab
 

Have you ever wanted your own lab? It’s become easier to reverse-engineer lab equipment and obtain the needed supplies. In this intensive four-day camp you will build several key pieces of key equipment to take home, including an incubator, PCR machine, centrifuge, hood and gel electrophoresis box. No prior experience necessary in biology or electronics


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BArbarians at the Gate: The Truth About Antibiotics

The development of antibiotics has revolutionized our society – we’re now much less likely to die from infections following a small cut in the hand or even open heart surgery. There are, however, serious consequences of our the extensive use of antibiotics. I will talk about how microorganisms produce antibiotics to compete with each other, and how we have exploited this natural arsenal of weapons to our benefit and detriment. While the advantages are obvious in the clinic, antibiotics are used also in cases where they are not needed, and as growth enhancers in life stock. The two main problems we are now facing are antibiotic resistance and disturbance of our beneficial microbes. I will explain how resistance arise and spread, and how the loss of “friendly” bacteria from our gut may lead to problems with obesity, diabetes and asthma.

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Dr. Sandra Breum Andersen is a postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of Dr. Martin Blaser at the Langone Medical Center at NYU, funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, where she works with the intricate social lives of Helicobacter pylori stomach bacteria. Prior to arriving in NY in 2016, Sandra acquired a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology in her native Denmark, working with behavior-manipulating fungi that turn ants into zombies. Reluctantly leaving behind fieldwork in tropical forests, Sandra turned to the social lives of bacteria causing lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients. This research was done at the University of Oxford and the Technical University of Denmark and revealed how bacteria can cooperate and cheat in our bodies.


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windows of the soul: the science of vision

As most primates we humans rely heavily on our visual perception to guide ourselves around the world and therefore our brains are very good in processing visual information about different shapes, colors and brightness variations. But putting together all the physical attributes is not enough to recognize something (or someone). To recognize something is to give meaning to it. The meaning of an object however is not an intrinsic physical feature of the object, but something also defined by internal representations in our brains, often based in past experience. You cannot recognize what you never saw. There are also many levels of recognition. I can show a green leaf and you will tell me “that’s a leaf” while someone else would tell me “that is a leaf from a red oak”. Thus visual perception is not just the processing of information about the physical attributes of what we see, but the combination of these physical attributes to the internal representations the already brain has. How is it that our memory and expectations influence our visual perception? Join us in an exploration of how we perceive reality through the windows of the soul.

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Dr. Tiago Siebert Altavini is a neuroscientist working in the Laboratory of Neurobiology in The Rockefeller University. He has been studying different aspects of the visual system since he was a biology undergrad student at the University of Brasilia. The interest in neuroscience of vision led him to a PhD at the University of Rio Grande do Norte where he worked with Dr. Kerstin Schmidt at the university’s Brain Institute. His PhD research was on the visual connections in the brain and their influence in patterns of spontaneous brain activity. Now working with Dr. Charles Gilbert he is investigating the top-down influence of feedback connections on object recognition. The aim of such research is to understand the mechanisms by which expectation influences visual perception.

 


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Methuselah's Return: Aging and Longevity Science in the 21st Century

Must we grow old and die? Understanding how and why we age and, by extension, devising a "cure" for our own mortality,has long been part of humanity's quest since earliest recorded history. In the relatively short period of time that tools of molecular biology have been developed, they have now been applied to questions of aging and longevity with incredibly fruitful results. These findings, along with their application to new classes of therapeutics being developed to inhibit and even reverse aging, will be discussed.

 

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Dr. Oliver Medvedik, TED Fellow and open-source synthetic biologist and director of the Maurice Kanbar Center for Biomedical Research at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. He is cofounder and Vice President of the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation, a nonprofit organization that maintains a crowdfunding platform Lifespan.io for funding of longevity and life extension research. Dr. Medvedik’s career stems in part from his doctoral work in which he used single-celled budding yeast as a genetic system to map pathways that underlie the processes of aging in complex organisms, such as humans. Since then, he has worked as a consultant for Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company specializing in the research and development of small- molecule therapeutics to treat age-onset diseases. He obtained his bachelor's degree in biology from Hunter College, City University of New York, in 1998, and holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School in the Biomedical and Biological Sciences program. 


Biotech 101

Channel your inner biohacker! A 12-hour class over four weeknights. This introductory hands-on class is specifically designed for those with no previous knowledge of molecular biology, or those who wish to brush up on their training. You will practice the techniques that are the basis of the biotech revolution, including DNA extraction, gel electrophoresis, bacterial transformation and PCR.  We will discuss the history of biotech and where the field is going, plus the social and ethical implications of this fast-evolving technology. Three four-hour sessions on consecutive Sundays.

This class is a prerequisite for advanced classes. Minimum age is 13, and anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a parent.



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a 21st Century Revolution: How Epigenetics is Transforming our Understanding of Health and Disease

One should be wary of understating the importance of DNA in biology. Its elucidation in the 20th Century must surely count among humanity’s greatest scientific achievements, transforming the way we think about life and providing a common thread between organisms as diverse as bacteria and chimpanzees. However, there are many profound biological questions that genetics is unable to resolve, not least among them some of our most intimate concerns about human health and disease, and the critical role of our lifestyle and other environmental factors in shaping these. The exploding field of epigenetics has the potential to address these questions. In this talk we will explore what we mean by epigenetics, why it is so important, and how we might be able to harness it for a healthier future.

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Andrew Abrams grew up in London, England and studied Natural Sciences and Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During this time, he conducted research into DNA repair in organisms that thrive in the incredibly harsh conditions of volcanic springs. He has since blended his scientific interests with more commercial ones, having worked as an Associate in J.P. Morgan’s healthcare investment banking practice in London, advising organizations spanning the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostic and other healthcare sub-sectors. He also holds an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School and is currently working at a venture capital fund that invests in life sciences and information technology companies.