Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Synthetic Biology Course

In 2013, Jeff and Evan co-instructed the first synthetic biology course at the historic Cold Spring Harbor laboratory. We introduced students from a wide range of backgrounds to our recent methods for characterizing gene circuit dynamics using optogenetics. The students also helped design next generation 3D printed hardware for conducting these experiments with higher precision. The other instructors taught modules in metabolic engineering, in vitro transcription-translation (TX-TL), RNA circuit design, and mammalian synthetic biology. Additionally, leading synthetic biologists from around the country visited the course, lecturing on their research and vision and interacting informally with the students in the laboratory. We taught the course a second time in 2014, and are co-organizing the course, which has brought in several exciting new instructors, in 2015.

Course website here


Bacterial photography in the classroom

Tabor Lab researchers have adapted Jeff Tabor’s pioneering work on bacterial photography into a low-cost, easy-to-use K12 kit enabling students to create their own photographs in the classroom using engineered bacteria.

Bacterial photographs are taken with E. coli which have been genetically engineered to sense red light and respond by producing indigo, the same dye used in blue jeans. When a culture of these E. coli are cast into molten agar and exposed to a red image, they develop a replica of the image, creating a “bacterial photograph” which lasts indefinitely. This highly visual classroom experiment demonstrates to students core biology principles and excites them about cutting edge research and future careers in STEM fields.

We are currently distributing our kit free of charge to high school classrooms, universities, and museums on a limited basis. If you are interested in using our kit please send an email to In your email include your class size, number of bactographs requested, shipping address and when you wish to receive the kit. The kit is stable for at least 2 weeks at 4°C. If you would like to keep up to date on our progress please send an email to To date over 800 high school students have taken Bactographs, and over 175 teachers have tested our kits, and we are excited to share this science with as many people as possible.

Visit website here