Introductory reading in synthetic biology and our research

We are often asked by people outside of the synthetic biology field what they can read to get acquainted with it. Here is the list we usually give so they can get a taste of the field and our research:

Non-technical introduction

Introduction for non-scientists.

Short introduction (2-5 mins)

Here are a couple of videos that give a quick intro to synthetic biology (synbio):

Medium introduction

A magazine article that explains the beginning of Amyris, one of the flagship companies in synbio:

"The Rise And Fall Of The Company That Was Going To Have Us All Using Biofuels"

Long introduction

The Engineering Biology Research Consortium (EBRC) has a fantastic playlist of videos explaining basic synthetic biology concepts in non-technical terms, as well as other educational material:

Media resources

Educational & outreach

Synbio roadmap

Also, here are a couple of books we have found useful:

You can see further down how to interact with Berkeley Lab scientists.

Technical introduction

Introduction for scientists and people used to reading academic papers

Short introduction

See above in the non-technical section

Medium introduction

Here are some general reviews of synthetic biology:

"A brief history of synthetic biology" by Cameron et al.

"Synthetic and systems biology for microbial production of commodity chemicals" by Chubukov et al.

Long introduction

For a more detailed introduction, continue the previous section with some of our work in machine learning and flux modeling:

"A machine learning Automated Recommendation Tool for synthetic biology" by Radivojevic et al.

"Combining mechanistic and machine learning models for predictive engineering and optimization of tryptophan metabolism" by Zhang et al.

"A machine learning approach to predict metabolic pathway dynamics from time-series multiomics data" by Costello et al.

"A Method to Constrain Genome-Scale Models with 13C Labeling Data" by Garcia Martin et al.

"13C Metabolic Flux Analysis for Systematic Metabolic Engineering of S. cerevisiae for Overproduction of Fatty Acids" by Ghosh et al.

and compare with more classical metabolic engineering work:

"Engineering dynamic pathway regulation using stress-response promoters" by Dahl et al.

"Industrial brewing yeast engineered for the production of primary flavor determinants in hopped beer" by Denby et al.

"Principal component analysis of proteomics (PCAP) as a tool to direct metabolic engineering" by Alonso-Gutierrez et al.

Here are a few papers on automation and microfluidics, which we think will be critical in the future:

"Controlling an organic synthesis robot with machine learning to search for new reactivity" by Granda et al.

"Bioprocess automation on a Mini Pilot Plant enables fast quantitative microbial phenotyping" by Unthan et al.

"Automated flow-based/digital microfluidic platform integrated with onsite electroporation process for multiplex genetic engineering applications" by Iwai et al.

and some auxiliary tools we have developed to create the necessary infrastructure:

Arrowland for multiomics data visualization.

The Experiment Data Depot for experimental data collection and visualization.

ClusterCad for retrobiosynthesis.

For more of our papers you can have a look at the Research Interests section.

And some books we have found useful:

Interacting with scientists

Knowledge is power, but sometimes you want to talk to a person. Here are some community activities organized by Berkeley Lab:

Science At The Theater

Join a panel of scientists as they reveal the latest research on subjects such as cool roofs, dark energy, and carbon reduction. These events, which are sometimes standing room only, take place in the Spring and Fall at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and are free and open to the public.

“Berkeley Lab strives to be a good neighbor and have a positive impact on the community with our ground-breaking research, educational outreach, jobs for local citizens, volunteerism, and coordination with local governments. While our slogan is “bringing science solutions to the world,” those efforts are built on a strong partnership with the community.”

Berkeley Lab Director Mike Witherell

Berkeley Lab Community Advisory Group

The Berkeley Lab's Community Advisory Group (CAG) was formed in 2010 to serve as a forum for discussion about the Lab's initiatives and activities, such as the capital projects and scientific initiatives, that impact the community.

Today, the CAG is also a venue to identify opportunities for the Lab, City of Berkeley, UC Berkeley, and other community members to collaborate in support of a vibrant and diverse community.

Berkeley Lab Tours


Public tours take place on the third Friday of every month between January and November. Registration is required. Guests will visit three U.S. Department of Energy national user facilities: the Molecular Foundry, the Advanced Light Source, and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC).


Students and teachers from grades K-12 in Alameda and Contra Costa county schools, and undergraduates from U.S. community colleges or universities are eligible for a Berkeley Lab educational tour. To learn more about programs for grades K-12 from Alameda and Contra Costa county schools, please visit Berkeley Lab’s K-12 STEM Education and Outreach Programs. To learn more about programs for U.S. community colleges or universities please visit Workforce Development & Education.

Solano stroll

Since 1974 Solano Avenue and the twin-cities of Albany and Berkeley CA, have hosted the Solano Avenue Stroll, the East Bay’s largest street festival! The Solano stroll features over five hundred vendors including 50 entertainers, 50 food booths, 150 government and non-profit agencies, 150 juried hand-crafters, a 75 entry parade, state of the art mechanical rides and much more!

Berkeley lab presents a booth annually staffed by its scientists. The Solano Stroll offers the Lab an opportunity to share with the community more about who we are as a national laboratory and the critical research we do.

Other Berkeley Lab community activities

You can find other ways to interact with Berkeley Lab scientists in this website.