Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

by Minu (Meenakshi Prabhune)

Hello fellow Schmoozers,

I have been thinking of the ideas I mean to cover in the Schmooze this week and the Synbiobeta meeting, held from 1 Oct to 3 Oct in SF, tops my list. I hope some of you had the chance to participate in the associated synthetic biology week that took place from Sept 30 to Oct 6. There were different synthetic biology related talks and activities for kids and adults during the week. Here’s my favorite pic from the “Be a Scientist and Explore DNA” day at Innovative Institute of Genomics:

Anyway, circling back to Synbiobeta meeting: it is a congregation of synthetic biology experts from academia and industry. For many people outside the field, the very definition of synthetic biology may not be clear. I had written about this last year after my first Synbiobeta meeting last year (you are welcome to check out the summary post), but here’s a refresher. It encompasses all the ways in which one could learn from nature to introduce deviations from usual biological pathways in the lab.

The applications of this field are remarkable; it is valuable in medicine, agriculture, biofuels, food, beverages, textiles, the list could go on. I am in fact working on an article to bring you concrete application examples and perspectives of thought leaders on future of the field, but more on that later. Suffice it to say for now that this industry will revolutionize the way we live within the next decade.
Another news on the professional front: I have joined Synthego, a company specializing in genome engineering solutions, as a scientific writer and editor. My main role is to strategize content for their blog and webpage. More than self-promotion, the reason for mentioning this here is that we do have (and will have) a lot of educative material around genome engineering on our website. I know “gene editing” is turning out to be catch phrase of the century, and I would love to spread more awareness regarding the same. One reason is also because I think there is a lot of hype around this topic, especially concerning the CRISPR technology. People believe that it will cure us all or kill us all, both extremes for a technology that is not even a decade old.

So, in case any of you are interested, I invite you to check out our blog for material on understanding the potential of CRISPR and its realistic applications. One of my favorite posts that might appeal to a broad audience is a case study about how labeling GMO food influenced public attitude. Lastly, we have also started a podcast recently, so feel free to subscribe if you prefer listening over reading:

Finally, moving on to my event recommendations for the week.
1. Exoplanet frontiers: Kepler & the next decade of NASA exploration, Monday, 10/08/18, 03:00 PM – 04:30 PM, Menlo Park

2. Santa Cruz Forestry Challenge, Wednesday, 10/10/18 through 10/13/18, Boulder Creek

3. After Dark: Preservation, Thursday, 10/11/18, 06:00 PM – 10:00 AM, San Francisco


Have a curious week ahead!
Science writer and journalist

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