Loyalist College participates in Ontario Genomics Course

This past May and June, one Research Associate from Loyalist College and two students from the Functional Genomics and Clinical Consultation program at Canadore College were invited to take part in the course “Introduction to Integrative Synthetic Biology” Course offered by the Canadian Synthetic Biology Education Research Group (CSBERG). This opportunity was made possible through Ontario Genomics (OG) and follows directly from the Memorandum of Understanding signed among OG, Canadore College, and Loyalist College back in October 2021.


According to CSBERG, synthetic biology is an emerging field pertaining to the synthesis and/or engineering of living organisms or systems comprised of the molecular components of life. Such systems include minimalist cells with DNA created de novo (from scratch) to engineered yeast strains that semi-synthetically produce the anti-malarial drug in large-scale 2000 L bioreactors. Essentially, synthetic biology allows us to build biological systems “from scratch” or else significantly alter natural organisms for a specific purpose. It is estimated that up to 60% of the world’s physical outputs could be made using biological systems. Examples include producing meat without any actual animals, the production of important pharmaceutical compounds and vaccines in plants, and the production of bioplastics without the need for fossil fuels as the starting material.


“Synthetic biology has the potential to revolutionize how we created the materials, food, and energy we need while significantly diminishing our impact on the environment,” says Dr. Michael Dorrington, an Advisor at OG. “It is imperative that students and researchers have access to resources to educate them about this exciting field in a multi-disciplinary and interactive way. We are ecstatic that we can provide access to CSBERG’s fantastic instruction and resources to our partners at Canadore and Loyalist.”


Brittany Bachellier is a Research Associate with Loyalist’s Centre for Natural Products and Medical Cannabis. Below is a short interview with Brittany on her experience taking the course and the value added for her work and education:


I: What is your biggest take away in completing this course?

B: My biggest takeaway is a greater understanding and appreciation for what Implementation Science is and how it fits into applied research.


I: How do you feel this would help you in your career or as a researcher?

B: Completing the Implementation Science stream of this course allowed me to gain a new perspective in not only synthetic biology, but research as whole. I think as a researcher It’s critical to understand how evidence and data collected at the bench level is not where research ends and knowing the foundational principals of implementation science will help to evaluate projects with a more well-rounded approach.


I: Who would you recommend taking this course and why?

B: This course would certainly be beneficial for anyone with an Interest in synthetic biology who already understands biological concepts. It was developed with three knowledge streams to satisfy the various areas that would need to collaborate for success in the field’s innovation pipeline, making options versatile. I think that the Implementation Science stream specifically would be beneficial for any researcher, as the foundational knowledge can be applied to any field of science where innovation meets routine practice.


I: Does this relate to any of your current work and/or research?

B: Absolutely.  At the Centre we are focused on applied research and supporting our partners with evidence and data. Our partners are focused on integrating this research into sustainable innovations that satisfy real world demands. While the course focused on synthetic biology as a field, implementation science in any field looks to bridge the gaps between what we know and where we want to go.


I: Can you think of any research opportunities as a result of taking this course?

B: Building on the foundational principles introduced through this course could be an opportunity to offer implementation science research as a service for industry and community partners that might need guidance past gaining the data and evidence we provide. Integrating that data and taking their innovations to appropriate markets in a sustainable way. If there Is future potential for in-house research projects, It could also aid in navigating that process as well.


I: What was one cool experience you could take away from this?

B: I really enjoyed the Canadian Synthetic Biology Education Research Group (CSBERG) approach to this course. The instructors brought some impressive experience and perspectives to the course, and their willingness to network and help provide opportunities was amazing.

The course was wrapped up with a design challenge that brought together all three streams to collaborate using the knowledge we acquired during the 5 weeks, and the challenge really aligned with what happens in a real-world research setting.  It was a fun and neat reminder of how Important knowledge integration is.


Students also participated in the course. One of those students was Nguyen Phuong Nguyen, who is a 2022 graduate of Canadore College’s Functional Genomics and Clinical Consultation program. Below is an interview with Nguyen and her experience in taking the course:


I: What is your biggest take away in completing this course?

N: Synthetic Biology is totally new to me. I have learned basic synthetic biology concepts to create a modified organism from many inspiring instructors in the course. I feel confident that I understand different biological parts and how engineering genetic systems work. 


I: How do you feeling this would help you in your career or as a researcher?

N: The course is helpful since I had a chance to meet with various researchers who shared knowledge and experience in their work. This helped me generate new ideas for next steps in determining my future.


I:  Who would you recommend taking this course and why?

N: Anyone interested in broadening their skills and knowledge set within functional genomics. My instructor from Functional Genomics and Clinical Consultation program recommended since it would be a chance to broaden my knowledge set, and the same could be for other students.  


I: Does this relate to any general interest or career interest overall for you?

N: What I have learned from the FGC program at Canadore College is useful in learning about this emerging field. For example, biosynthesis focuses on the strength of promoters, ribosome binding sites, and terminators to manipulate the expression genes. This only builds on the foundational knowledge provided by my program and instructors.


I: What was one cool experience you could take away from this?

N: Having an opportunity to know about different methods and different databases for biological parts that are integrative with these methods, helps me understand more in working with DNA and RNA, proteins.


I: How has this inspired the launch of your career?

N: I have been looking for opportunities to gain experience in research labs, so taking this course not only helped me gain understanding of the field, but also helped me network with several instructors, such as researchers and certified genetic counselors. I think that every step or opportunity to learn some skills or knowledge will be helpful and meaningful as I move into my own career.




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