Frequently asked questions

What are the prerequisites or background needed for this class?

For this class, you should be familiar with the fundamental concepts in molecular biology. Specifically, you should have a solid understanding of the following topics:

  • DNA as the support of hereditary information

  • The central dogma of molecular biology:

    • The molecular mechanism of DNA replication

    • Transcription and the role of RNA in prokaryotes (mRNA, tRNA)

    • Translation and protein biosynthesis (the ribosome cycle)

  • Control of gene regulation in prokaryotes


If you’re not familiar with these topics, we will provide you with resources for you to learn them. We strongly recommend taking the primer class if you plan on taking more advanced classes.

What are the logistics and length of the class?

The first class consists of 5 modules, ~30 minutes each, that you can follow at your own pace. Each module consists of instructional videos and accompanying written materials. We will walk you through a real-world example of a synthetic biology project used to create a specific compound. For your final project, you apply what you've learned to create your own.

What materials do we get?

You will have access to the instructional videos, primer notes, and worksheets. You will also have access to our discussion board and group of teaching assistants to answer your questions and give you feedback on your personal project.

What platform will you be using?

We will be using Piazza for questions and discussions, and Google Classroom for materials and schedules.

What is the learning style for the class?

The class consists of lectures, where the main focus is to teach you the theoretical foundations you need to run your project effectively (how to pick a host organism, how to optimize the DNA cloned into it, how to select a recombination strategy, etc.) You will learn a solid framework on why and how to do things, that you can then fill with the specific wet lab techniques you may need.


Will there be videos on how to conduct experiments?

The supplementary material to the class will contain videos showing how to do basic experiments and other wet lab techniques.

What software do I need to connect with the class?

All you need is a computer with internet access and a modern browser.

How is this better than Wikipedia, YouTube videos and other tutorials?

First, this class assembles and organizes in one place all the knowledge required, start to end, on how to create your own project from scratch. Second, we will also provide real feedback on your student project. Finally, most online resources tend to be purely mechanistic (how to do things). We will also be teaching you how to think strategically about how and why to do apply different techniques.

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