The first Synthesis Exchange Laboratory, UCL 2010

In July 2010, UCL hosted our pilot workshop, exploring the cultural dimensions of synthetic biology in a week-long interdisciplinary exchange lab and series of public events (a panel and a film night), with 25 participants from a variety of art, science, design and humanities backgrounds. Modules were led by our contributors - UCL scientists and invited guests from around the world – giving talks, demonstrations and leading practicals.

Read thoughts posted during the exchange lab week on our Posterous blog.


Artists Jennet Thomas, Katy Connor with Daisy Ginsberg and Alistair Elfick. Photo: Melanie Jackson

 Professor John Ward. Photo: Melanie Jackson

Age of the Anthropocene…Field trip to Crystal Palace.

Observing genetically modified C.elegans worms

Gibson Assembly

Learning to read gels


..and practicals (DNA extraction from strawberries using gin and curacao, to celebrate 4th July)


Public Event: We need to talk about Synthia

An evening of panel discussion and artists’ presentations, exploring the cultural and societal implications of synthetic biology. The event’s title was inspired by Craig Venter and his team who in 2010 built the genome of a bacterium from scratch and incorporated it into a cell to make what they called the world’s first synthetic life form. It was dubbed Synthia by its opponents, the ETC group.

Panelists: Professor John Ward, Head of Synbion, the UCL-Birkbeck Synthetic Biology Network, Oron Catts, Director of SymbioticA, The Centre for Biological Arts School at the University of Western Australia, and Dr Alistair Elfick, University of Edinburgh. Chaired by Dr Jane Calvert, University of Edinburgh.

Artists’ presentations from Tuur Van BalenAndy Gracie, and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg.

Video of the event below or on The Arts Catalyst Vimeo channel.

Nicola Triscott, We Need To Talk About Synthia, 8/07/2011 at The Arts Catalyst

Nicola Triscott, We Need To Talk About Synthia, 8/07/2011 at The Arts Catalyst

John Ward, We Need To Talk About Synthia, 8/07/2011 at The Arts Catalyst

Alistair Elfick, We Need To Talk About Synthia, 08/07/2011

Oron Catts, We Need To Talk About Synthia, 08/07/2011

Panel Discussion, We Need To Talk About Synthia, 08/07/2011

Synthetic Biology Film Night


An evening of films on the broad theme of synthetic biology. We will screen a number of short films – including animation, science-fiction, and documentary – followed by the classic 1962 B-movie ‘The Day of the Triffids’, based on the novel by John Wyndham in which a species of mobile stinging plants, created in an experimental lab, begin to take over the world.

The Day of the Triffids (1962)


Film programme


While Darwin Sleeps, Paul Bush, 4’5”


The Synthetic Kingdom, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, 3’25”


Public Misunderstanding of Science, Bruce Gilchrist with Kate Genevieve, Simona Casonato, David Louwrier, Daksha Patel, 5’44”


Wir trafen uns in einem Garten(We met in a garden), Gerald Zahn, 1’35”

Transgenic Spider-goats, Sam Gaty & George Costakis, 6’12”

Gilles Corporation, Vianey Meurville, 6’54”

Occupation: Movements II & III,, Erich Schockmel, 6’31”Protoparticulas (Protoparticles), Chema Garcia Ibarra 7’

The Day of the Triffids (1962), Directed by Steve Sekely, 93 min.