Biology by design

Categories: synthetic biology
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Published on: July 11, 2013


At the moment I’m reading a lot about synthetic biology (GARNet report and paper to come in the next few months) and it’s all technical stuff – genome assembly, online resources, transformation methodologies. Synthetic biology is the application of engineering principles to biology, so it’s natural that the technical challenges and ingenious solutions take centre stage.

But engineering isn’t all about building things that work. It’s also about the way things look. How much do synthetic biologists consider the aesthetics of their product? Do they need to?

In May, Daisy Ginsberg gave a talk at Warwick and argued strongly that aesthetics are a crucial part of synthetic biology. She is an artist and designer who works with scientists, including iGEM teams, to develop design principles in scientific research.

I think the idea of bringing art and science together to create beautiful, functional plant products is exciting in itself, and certainly another perspective to consider when planning a plant synthetic biology project. But a great aesthetic experience will also be very important when it comes to marketing and selling synthetic biology products, which is the ultimate goal for synthetic biology investors, and many scientists too.

Have a look at Synthetic Aesthetics, a joint project including scientists and artists run by the University of Edinburgh and Stanford University, in you are interested in aesthetics and design in synthetic biology. This recent article by Daisy on the ‘pre-future’ of synthetic biology is worth a read too.

The next time I blog it will be from Plant Biology 2013 – if you’re going, I hope to see you there!

Image credit: ‘Growth Assembly‘ by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and Sascha Pohflepp, illustration by Sion Ap Tomos.

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