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Public Forum and Symposium on Synthetic Biology May 10 and 11

The Office for Research at Northwestern University will hold two free events on the emerging field of synthetic biology May 10 and 11. A public forum and symposium will focus on recent discoveries in this area and the directions synthetic biology may take in the future.

Synthetic biology is a new technology that seeks to create interchangeable biological parts and devices that can be assembled to harness the living world and meet pressing societal needs, ranging from sustainable energy and manufacturing to medicine and environmental stewardship.

A public forum, “Engineering Life: A Synthetic Biology Primer,” will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, in room 107, Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road. It will feature a panel of Northwestern experts discussing the opportunities and challenges of synthetic biology followed by an informal discussion and hands-on synthetic biology demonstrations.

The panelists are synthetic biology experts Michael Jewett and Joshua Leonard, each an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and ethicist Laurie Zoloth, professor of medical humanities and bioethics and religion at the Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Biology by Design,” a daylong symposium, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1818 Maple St., Evanston. (Register at It will provide the audience with a window on how scientists and industry leaders interact relative to scientific mechanics and ethical concerns in the field of synthetic biology.

Jay Keasling, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, will deliver the keynote address at 5:15 p.m. Experts from academia and industry will speak throughout the day on a variety of topics, including building a synthetic cell, designing biological systems for health and sustainability and the ethics of synthetic biology.