Shawn Jin (SAR ’15) may be majoring in human physiology, but that hasn’t kept him from diving into research that combines both biology and computer engineering.
A Kilachand Honors College student, Jin has been working this summer on synthetic biology research with Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE) and Traci Haddock, a post-doctoral associate in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.
Densmore, who recently spoke about the challenges facing this field on a DISCOVER panel, said that DNA assembly is not an efficient practice currently. To help alleviate this, Jin is designing a standardized method for tracking genetic circuits that has the potential to help solve this problem.
“We’re essentially creating a library of well characterized DNA parts that will allow synthetic biologists to share and compare information more quickly,” said Jin.
To help support his summer research, Jin was awarded a Hariri Award by the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computation Science & Engineering. The prize is given to students conducting research in computer science.
In addition to researching, Jin will also spend the next several months preparing for the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) regionals competition.
The iGEM competition, which is geared toward undergraduates, is dedicated to advancing the field of synthetic biology by developing its community and collaborations.
Last year, Jin and Monique De Freitas (MET ’13) took home gold in the competition. The BU team will be partnering with Wellesley College like previous years, and with five teammates this time instead of two, Jin and Haddock have high hopes for this year’s contest.
“Our partnership with Wellesley is great because they’re able to provide feedback on our software tools,” said Haddock, who advises the team. “We’re looking forward to working with them again.”
Eventually, Jin hopes to further his education by earning a medical degree. In the meantime, he’s looking forward to competing in iGEM this October in Toronto.
–Rachel Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)