DIYbio Around the World

Noah Most

The customs officer raised an eyebrow. I carefully explained the nature of my stay in Canada. My arrival in Victoria on July 26th represented the first stop on a year-long worldwide tour of do-it-yourself biology (DIYbio). I’ll get my hands dirty in community biolabs as well as examine the social, ethical, and legal questions that are tied to the movement. It just may not be the easiest thing to explain when crossing a border.

I graduated last May from Grinnell College in Iowa where I studied biology, economics, and entrepreneurship. As I was exploring synthetic biology, I stumbled upon DIYbio and was immediately captivated; it seemed to fuse all my interests together beautifully. I applied for a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which allows for a year of independent study outside the United States. My proposal generated more odd looks—this time a good thing—and was just weird enough to be accepted. As a result, I’ll be sharing my experiences as I visit different DIYbio groups around the globe, spanning from the United Kingdom to Indonesia.

Canada made for an obvious first stop, and Derek Jacoby, founding member of the Victoria Makerspace, welcomed me to my inaugural lab. Immediately, I was thrown into an introductory class where the students made E. coli express green fluorescent protein from a jellyfish species. As a summer fellow at Carnegie Mellon University, I had done this lab once before, except this time the other participants weren’t undergraduates. ...

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