5 Creative Ways to Teach Synthetic Biology Without Lecturing

Akanksha Saxena

Synthetic biology is a field that combines Biology, Engineering, and Computer Science to construct and manipulate biological systems. Scientists engineer organisms for novel functions and valuable compound production by designing genetic components. It holds potential for applications in medicine, agriculture, energy, and the environment, revolutionizing industries with custom-designed biological systems.

As you unveil the wonders of synthetic biology to your students, a captivating frontier where science and innovation intertwine, it should be a learning journey that’s both interesting and engaging. When students explore the art of engineering life itself, manipulating organisms, genes, and molecules with awe-inspiring precision, the underlying principles should be clear and crisp. 

Contrastingly, we observe students being overwhelmed by the intricacies of this topic. And even educators are challenged in delivering effective lessons on its subtopics. We list 5 creative ways here that educators can combine in their next sessions to make synthetic biology a hit amongst their students.

1. Use Interactive Models and Simulations

One effective approach to teaching students about synthetic biology is by incorporating interactive models and simulations. These tools provide an immersive learning experience, allowing students to explore and manipulate virtual representations of biological systems. Studies have provided compelling evidence that virtual interactive learning facilitated through immersive models offers numerous benefits:

  • Increased engagement
  • Higher empowerment of learners
  • A spirit of collaboration 

Interactive models enable students to visualize complex molecular structures, genetic pathways, and cellular processes, enhancing their understanding of synthetic biology concepts. The Virtual Synthetic Biology Model offered by Labster can come in handy for educators who wish to enrich the learning experience of their students.

2. Learning with Games and Activities

Incorporating games and activities into the teaching of synthetic biology can greatly enhance student engagement and understanding. One approach is to develop interactive games that simulate the design and manipulation of biological systems. The gamification elements of the Labster’s Synthetic Biology Virtual Lab engage students in a virtual lab activity where they are challenged to design a biological circuit that specifically targets and destroys cancer cells based on their microRNA profile.

Synthetic biology virtual lab setup.
Discover Labster's Synthetic Biology virtual lab today!

Labster's game-based learning contributes to a more inclusive and accessible educational landscape as it:

  • Bridges limitations of physical infrastructure for synthetic biology experiments.
  • Democratizes access to high-quality learning.
  • Eliminates disparities in educational opportunities.
  • Addresses resource constraints in developing countries.
  • Promotes knowledge equity regardless of geographical location/socioeconomic background.

As this targeted game-based activity from Labster challenges students to apply their knowledge in finding a potential cure for a rare form of cancer, students develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and experimental skills within the context of synthetic biology research.

3. Infusing Technology into Study Plans

Teachers can incorporate technology into their synthetic biology study plans to create a dynamic and engaging learning environment that empowers students to deepen their understanding of fundamental principles and concepts by:

  1. Curating digital resources (interactive simulations, virtual labs, and online articles) 
  2. Utilizing online collaboration tools (discussion boards and video conferencing) 
  3. Encouraging independent research 
  4. Providing ongoing support (virtual office hours and feedback)

4. Inspiring Learners by Connecting to Career Prospects

Showcasing the impact of the field by inviting guest speakers from industries and researchers contributing to real-world problems through their synthetic biology research could be a great way to motivate your students. Studies have evidenced a positive correlation between students' motivation to learn and positive learning outcomes. 

By designing Synthetic Biology courses that can both enthuse and inspire students to make a difference in society through their future discourse, educators can enhance the overall student learning experience. 

5. Connecting the Topic to Real-World Applications

To effectively teach students about synthetic biology, it is essential to bridge the gap between theory and real-world applications. By connecting the topic to tangible examples, educators can ignite students' curiosity and drive their motivation to learn. Some of the ways that can be applied in classroom teaching are:

  1. Use of case studies (to demonstrate how synthetic biology has revolutionized fields such as healthcare, energy, and agriculture). 
  2. Updating with current advancements (to explore the development of life-saving drugs, the creation of eco-friendly materials, or the engineering of crops for sustainable farming). 
  3. Inviting experts and industry professionals (to share their firsthand experiences and success stories for students to gain a deeper understanding of the practical implications and exciting career opportunities in synthetic biology). 

Final thoughts

While we understand that synthetic biology has various ethical implications and societal impacts, its potential to make the world a better place should not be undermined. This makes the job of educators and a well-rounded education system even more necessary in today’s date than ever before.

By embracing technological advancements and regularly updating the course structures, this topic can be made more approachable as well as interesting for students. Labster supports educators and educational leaders of the current times in this agenda by providing well-structured and scientifically-designed simulations that can ease the job as one proceeds.

Try our free 30-day All Access Educator's Pass today and play the Synthetic Biology simulation alongside 300+ other virtual labs!


  1.  De Freitas, S., Rebolledo‐Mendez, G., Liarokapis, F., Magoulas, G., & Poulovassilis, A. (2010). Learning as immersive experiences: Using the four‐dimensional framework for designing and evaluating immersive learning experiences in a virtual world. British journal of educational technology, 41(1), 69-85.
  2. Kamardeen, I. (2013). Motivation-driven learning and teaching model for construction education. Australasian Journal of Construction Economics and Building, The, 13(1), 36-49.

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