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SQI: Simpson Querry Institute

Educational kits offer intro to engineering biology

SQI researcher makes complex science approachable for high school students

A research team led by SQI faculty member Michael Jewett is using low-cost, high-tech biology kits to teach advanced topics such as gene editing and antibiotic resistance to high school students.

Last summer, the group launched the BioBits suite of educational kits, which involve adding water and simple reagents to freeze-dried, cell-free reactions to produce fluorescent readouts—making the results of the experiments visually apparent to the students. New modules on antibiotic resistance and the gene-editing technology CRISPR have since been added and were tested in a group of Chicago-area classrooms for a pilot study published May 7 in ACS Synthetic Biology.

“After we unveiled the first kits, we next wanted to tackle current topics that are important for society,” said Jewett, who was principal investigator of the study.

The BioBits kits are designed to be easily and safely stored and cost less than $150 per 30-person classroom. All of the lab experiments can be carried out within a one-hour class period and yield results that can be analyzed as soon as the following day.

“I’m hopeful that students get excited about engineering biology and want to learn more,” Jewett said.