By Sophie Meads,
Many students go off campus during lunch, but for one day, a handful dedicated that free time to smelling different cultures in the Career Center and describing their distinct smells.
The uncommon lunch-time activity took place on May 7 during a lecture by DHS graduate and current UC Davis professor Marc Facciotti on synthetic biology.
Facciotti defines his field as “applying the principles used in engineering to biology in order to create complex systems that cannot only be designed once but then reused in another useful context.”
During the lunch lecture, Facciotti used the different cultures to demonstrate one potential use of synthetic biology: adding an unnatural odor to a particular substance. The three cultures that Facciotti presented were all samples of unadulterated Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, but as participating students soon found out, each had a different smell ranging from wintergreen to even banana.
“For me the main attraction is to think about all of the great solutions for human kind and for driving the economy that we might be able to engineer if we only had the tools and know how to do it,” Facciotti said about synthetic biology.
Although the lecture was not the most popular event during lunch, many of the dozen students who attended it ended their lunch period with new knowledge about the possibilities of synthetic biology.
“I had not known about the antimalarial drug and the metabolic engineering that led to that so that was very interesting,” junior Pavle Jeremic, who attended the lecture, said.
According to Facciotti, there is a lot of potential with synthetic biology however there is also a lot of fear. “It is not just what can you make but what should you make,” he said.