By Guest Blogger, Natalie Kuldell
I’m a scientist by training so—no big surprise– I’m excited to discover how the living world works. But new to me is just how powerfully students can learn the technical content when they try to build novel systems. Within the last few years of my teaching career I’ve had the chance to teach the engineering of biology and I’ve seen it bring a context and a joy to the hard work of learning. A student who wants a cell to do something interesting (detect a poison, fix a broken surface, make a medicine) will figure out how the proteins and DNA can work together to build a switch. The biology itself becomes a building material—the nouns and verbs that they can write sentences with, or
the programming language that operates the “wetware.” When I ask the students to design and build, I see the book-learning move into the real world for them. When I put students into teams in order that they might benefit from each other’s ideas and talents, I preview the kind of professional they can someday become.