Curriculum Module: Introduction to Engineering Biology

Focused around concepts in the 2019 EBRC roadmap, Engineering Biology, this module consists of presentation slides that can be used (in sequence, or mixed-and-matched) to give students a basic understanding of the tools, technologies, and opportunities in engineering/synthetic biology.


About the slide set

The slides are divided into sections (“Concepts”) including: What is engineering/synthetic biology? (Concept 1-1); the “Design, Build, Test, & Learn” cycle (Concept 1-2), Core Tools for engineering biology (Concepts 1-3 and 1-4), and finally exploring Impacts & Applications of engineering biology (Concept 1-5).

The slides can be used as a complete lecture, or any concept topic can be used to supplement existing material. For example, Concept 1-1 could be used to introduce synthetic biology to professionals outside the field, or the Concept 1-5 Data Science section could be modified to show the intersections of the field in a computer science course.

The slides are available to use under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA. The goal of these slides is to provide free, accessible, and modular explanations of key Engineering Biology topics. EBRC provides this curricular module under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license, which allows free use in noncommercial settings with credit for the material given to EBRC and the content authors. By downloading these resources, you agree to these terms. If you are interested in using EBRC material in a commercial setting or have other usage questions, please contact us at

The slides were created by Michael Sheets (Boston University) and Joshua Atkinson (Univ. of Southern California), with support from the EBRC Education Working Group.


These lecture slides are designed for educators looking to incorporate current synthetic & engineering biology practices into their teaching material. These slides were designed with a target audience of undergraduate and graduate students, but could be adapted for high school students (and coupled with BioBuilder material, for a great experience). Recommended student knowledge: “biology 101” level, generally how DNA & cells work

Learning Objectives

You will be able to answer:

  • What is synthetic/engineering biology?
  • How can I Design, Build, Test, and Learn from biological systems?
  • What are the Core Tools of engineering biology?
  • How and where can engineering biology be applied to positively impact society?

You will have:

  • Planned a design cycle to approach a current problem
  • Learned about engineering biology tools that can help you develop your idea
  • Discovered the many sectors that engineering biology can positively impact

Table of Contents

Concept 1-1: What is Synthetic Biology?
Slides 4-23

Concept 1-2: Engineering Biology Roadmap & the DBTL Cycle
Slides 24-28

Concept 1-3: Core Tools for Engineering Biology
Part 1: Engineering DNA & Biomolecules
Slides 29-48

Concept 1-4: Core Tools for Engineering Biology
Part 2: Engineering Hosts and Data Science
Slides 49-73

Concept 1-5: Impacts & Applications
Slides 74-85

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If you have questions about the material or suggestions for future lecture slide sets, please contact us at

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