DIY Biology

DIYbio (Do It Yourself Biology) is a nascent movement within the broader maker culture, aimed at enabling public participation in biology outside of professional laboratory settings. Adopting the language of computation and the practices of other DIY movements, ‘garage biology’ focuses on opensourcing, hacking and tinkering with biology. Similar to hardware platforms such as the Arduino or Raspberri Pi, which have revolutionized STEM education and public participation in electronics, kits for testing and analyzing DNA (e.g., OpenPCR and the Pearl Biotech Transilluminator) are enabling wetlab work in schools and maker spaces for a fraction of the cost of professional lab equipment. These developments set the stage for new wave of biology-themed DIY.

Yet, despite these developments, emerging DIYbio efforts face challenges ranging from the physical constraints of establishing a safe biology workspace and procuring necessary equipment, to the limited novice-friendly tutorials for performing biology protocols and a lack of platforms for analyzing and sharing the results.

Our studio is a BSL-1 (biosafety-level 1) facility where we develop low-cost tools and methods for amateur biology practice. DIYbio tools serve as low-cost alternatives for expensive and commercial grade biology equipment. We view DIYbio tools as boundary objects—artifacts that have different interpretations across communities, yet maintain a common identity to facilitate collaboration. These toolsinvite knowledge sharing across the domains of engineering, biology, art, and hobby making. They also serve as sites for speculation and engagement with broader biotechnology issues.

Our work currently includes:

  • DIYbio incubator, an IoT (Internet of Things) tool for performing controlled microbiology experiments. Our incubator is low-cost (under $50); precise (+/-0.25C); and camera-enabled to share DIYbio activities across communities. The incubator will serve as part of a DIYbio starter kit for supporting creative biology experimentation amongst hobbyists and makers.
  • Workshops with local artists, makers, and DIY biologists. We are organizing a series of workshops centered around creative microbiology experiments, including fermenting yogurt and cheese; harvesting biofuels from algae; creating petri dish art from cultured bacteria patterns; testing household products for antibiotic properties; and testing different sterilization methods. These workshops serve to advance informal conceptual learning (e.g., aseptic lab technique, microscopy); as well as engagement with broader issues (e.g., antibiotic resistance in humans; germ theory; preventative vs curative medicine; contamination of food products and

    food safety; scientific method and experiment design).

 

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