Over the past 30 years New England Biolabs has sponsered a two week summer workshop to learn molecular biology. We have trained over 3000 students from all over the world, and backgrounds including artists, bankers, corporate executives, medical doctors, sales people, computer scientists, teachers and writers.
Even though most students who come to the workshop, don't have scientific backgrounds they share a common belief that molecular biology is important for many fields and in everyday life. One of the core values of the scientific workshop and at New England Biolabs is that we learn by doing. Let's face it. Learning PCR by reading a textbook is almost impossible. I didn't understand and appreciate PCR until I did it in a lab.
Therefore the summer workshop is very hands on. In fact, almost immediately after arriving students are handed a pipette to begin experiments. Unfortunately at the start of the workshop most students don't know which end is up. However, over the next two weeks students learn about DNA, RNA and proteins.
...and learn core molecular biology techniques. Students rapidly progress from not knowing which end of the pipette is up, to being able to complete a next generation sequencing RNA-seq experiment to analyze gene expression.
In the workshop, there is always that moment when the students are able to integrate all the material into their own lives and careers. It is the moment when a computer scientist understands the biological questions posed by collaborators. It is the moment when a sales manager can now empathize with customers struggling in the lab. When a lawyer understands the functions of enzymes in legal contracts and licenses that she writes. It is the moment when a physician adds molecular perspectives to her clinical studies, and when a teacher that he now has the tools to pass molecular biology on to the next generation.
I hope that the Molecular Biology Summer Workshop educates and inspires students to use molecular biology to generate the next breakthroughs that will impact us all.
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