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SURF: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty and JPL technical staff for the SURF program. Additional AOs for the Amgen Scholars program can be found here.

Specific GROWTH projects being offerred for summer 2019 can be found here.

Each AO indicates whether or not it is open to non-Caltech students. If an AO is NOT open to non-Caltech students, please DO NOT contact the mentor.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor.

Announcements for external summer programs are listed here.

Students pursuing opportunities at JPL must be
U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

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Project:  Synthetic genomes, life forms and functions
Disciplines:  Bioengineering, Synthetic Biology
Mentor:  Kaihang Wang, Assistant Professor of Biological Engineering, (BBE),, Phone: 8513 (office); 6949 (lab)
Mentor URL:  (opens in new window)
Background:  The genome serves as the blueprint of every organism on earth. A rigorous understanding of how genomic information encodes a particular life form, and the ability to design and synthesize new genomes de novo, will drastically advance our understanding of life and improve our ability to engineer organisms. We aim to advance this goal by inventing novel concepts and developing unique methods to ‘write’ the sequences of entire genomes within living cells. We have also been exploring applications of such techniques to engineer synthetic organisms with expanded genetic codes and/or new capabilities and to ultimately create novel life forms with functions beyond the limits of nature. Our proposed steps towards the creation of such synthetic life forms are each significant and substantial; and scalable and modular with other steps in the process. We plan to initially test and push the perceived boundaries of life using Escherichia coli as a model system, and then expand into higher organisms.
Description:  Work in our lab involves a range of molecular biology and biochemistry techniques such as in vivo & in vitro CRISPR/Cas9, recombination, cloning, and DNA extraction. Development of the specific project(s) will be tailored to the intellectual interests and technical background of the applying students. We are particularly interested in motivated students who have hands-on experience with standard molecular cloning techniques, manipulating/recombining large pieces of DNA, or genome editing.
References:  1. Wang, K.°, Fredens, J., Brunner, S.F., Kim, S.H., Chia, T., Chin, J.W.° (2016). Defining synonymous codon compression schemes by genome recoding. Nature, 539(7627), 59-64.

2. Wang, K.*, Sachdeva, A.*, Cox, D.J., Wilf, N.W., Wallace, S., Mehl, R.A., Chin, J.W. (2014). Optimized orthogonal translation facilitates genetically directed, rapid and spontaneous protein double labeling for FRET. Nature Chemistry, 6(5), 393-403.

3. Wang, K., Schmid, W.H., Chin, J.W. (2012). Reprogramming the Genetic Code: From Triplet to Quadruplet Codes. Angewandte, 51(10), 2288-2297.

4. Neumann, H.*, Wang, K.*, Davis, L., Garcia-Alai, M., Chin, J.W. (2010). Encoding Multiple Unnatural Amino Acids via Evolution of a Quadruplet Decoding Ribosome. Nature, 464 (7287), 441-444.

5. Wang, K.*, Neumann, H.*, Chin, J.W. (2007). Evolved Orthogonal Ribosomes Enhance the Efficiency of Synthetic Genetic Code Expansion. Nature Biotechnology, 25(7), 770-777.
Student Requirements:  Strong intellectual curiosity, attention to details, logical thinking, self-motivation, effective communication, and ability to work both independently and cooperatively are required. Strong preference will be given to students who commit to research units during the academic year.
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       Amgen Scholars    Non-Caltech students only  
       SURF    Caltech students only 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.

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