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Stories by Christina Agapakis

I Heard You Like Feedback Loops

In some labs, biology and computer science are converging. On the one hand, computer scientists are working towards creating computer chips inspired by the circuitry of the brain, and on the other, some synthetic biologists are aiming to create biological computers inside living cells...

December 15, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

"The Future of Food is Microbiology?!!"

David Chang of Momofuku gives an awesome talk about microbiology and food for Harvard's Science and Cooking seminars, with a special cameo by my very good friend Ben Wolfe, mycologist/botanist/microbiologist/cheese expert extraordinaire...

December 7, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Bits and Pieces

As usual, these past few weeks (ok, years) my head has been full of swirling thoughts of symbiosis, synthetic biology, photosynthesis, and biomimicry.

November 29, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Human Design

Keeping up with the news of synthetic biology means I often see a lot of kooky things. There's the delightfully kooky iGEM project ideas or news of cyborg yeast (more on that hopefully sometime soon), a few conspiracy theory websites, and lots of newspaper articles with headlines like (I'm paraphrasing here) "Synthetic Biology Will Soon Kill Us All" or "Every Problem in the Entire World to be Solved by Synthetic Biology in the Next Decade." This oscillation between certain death and techno-utopia is what Drew Endy calls "The Half-pipe of Doom," the inescapable binary of equally implausible hype surrounding the field...

November 15, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Bloggingheads: What will power the future?

I had the pleasure of chatting with Maggie Koerth-Baker again for Bloggingheads Science Saturday, this time talking about the future of energy, how biotechnology might play a role in that future, and the risks involved in new technologies as well as the risks of sticking to old ones...

November 8, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Diversity by Design

The recent Nature paper from Jef Boeke's group, "Synthetic chromosome arms function in yeast and generate phenotypic diversity by design," begins with an appropriately futuristic sentence: "The first phase of any genome engineering project is design." While there have been efforts to redesign viral genomes and chemically synthesize bacterial genomes, whole genomes of living cells are not yet something that can readily be designed from scratch...

October 28, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Making Waves

Bacteria can swim and swarm, and left to their own devices on nutritious petri dishes some species will form remarkable patterns. I stumbled on such a pattern-forming species when trying to isolate bacteria from skin and cheese, a stinky swarming strain that would cover my plates in rippling waves of cells...

October 17, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Rethinking DNA and RNA

My friends in the Silver Lab are constantly doing amazing things, and I want to highlight two papers from last summer that are especially amazing. Both papers rethink the role of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) in synthetic biology in really interesting and unexpected ways...

September 27, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Allergy Recapitulates Phylogeny

For many years I lived in fear of my allergies. While I never had any life-threatening reactions, I developed new allergies with alarming frequency throughout my childhood.

September 18, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Synthetic Biology Slam

The night before SB5.0 started, students and postdocs got together for the first ever Synthetic Biology Slam. Presenters had five minutes to talk about their vision of synthetic biology and their big idea for the future...

September 6, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

100 Years of Synthetic Biology

Here is a fantastic talk by historian of biology Luis Campos about the history of synthetic biology at the Bio:Fiction film festival in Vienna:

September 3, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Editing the City

Amazing new technologies are helping people with severe mobility issues get around more independently, from wheelchairs that climb stairs to wheelchairs controlled by breathing, magnetic tongue piercings, or even thoughts...

August 23, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Worms Expanded

I'm a sucker for synthetic biology in non-traditional (non E. coli ) model organisms, so I was pretty excited by the news of a recent paper on expanding the genetic code of a worm.

August 13, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Mad Science: Synthetic Polycephaly

Horror movie mad scientists are often creating some sort of monstrous hybrids in their secret labs/lairs. Their genius misunderstood by their less ambitious colleagues, they are driven underground where their single-minded quest for scientific knowledge or world domination inadvertently or purposely causes disaster, which *spoiler alert!* never ends well for the scientist.Horror movies aren't exactly a good place to learn about what doing science is really like, but they do a pretty good job of reflecting our society's anxieties and fears...

August 9, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Signs of Life

Each scientific discipline has its own practices, its own language, its own body of literature, its own snooty opinion of neighboring disciplines and its own notion of where it stands along perceived intellectual hierarchies, so perfectly illustrated by this typically excellent XKCD comic...

August 2, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

Smelling Bacteria

Bacteria make a lot of smells, mostly ones that we'd rather not think about. The hundreds of volatile compounds that bacterial cultures produce can signal many things, although I'm probably one of very few people who associate the smell of warm E...

July 19, 2011 — Christina Agapakis

An Action Hero Approach to Energy

A few months ago (before the recent batch of scandals), Arnold Schwarzenegger gave the keynote speech at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit that several of my colleagues attended.

July 16, 2011 — Christina Agapakis
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