Monday, November 3, 2014

Biological Engineering is Witchcraft

(I have a title now!!!)

Yes, I said it: witchcraft. But then I realize MIT, and magic is just possible here.

Coming here, I can confidently say that I’ve looked at everyday things differently. I think about heat transfer when things melt, energy transferred through friction to erase, where I can sit on a table to minimize torque, et cetera; this developed by the end of my sophomore fall with 20.110 (Thermo). Hmm, now that I think more about it, it all came from Professor Griffith lectures about ice cream crystal thermodynamics and honey’s medicinal properties. What can I say… food speaks to me.

This second module has had a similar effect on how I view the world. How? The possibility of manipulating normal cell processes for desired products (purified extracts, scents, even photography) astounds me! It never occurred to me that a single cell could be 2+ LEGO®  pieces; I always thought of it being just one piece. We can change the color or shape of several pieces giving us something aesthetically pleasing and/or functional -- or regrettably something that will fall apart. It’s nice to know that it’s possible to engineer biological systems, but at the same time it’s quite irritating we don’t have one universal design to rule them all. We’re still in the stage where we need to devote countless hours and energy, troubleshoot and debug many a time for one confident system.  

In the end, it’s comforting that we will soon have the confidence to tap into a repertoire of efficient E. coli systems for [insert something awe-inspiring] and, with just an overnight incubation, harvest our intended product in surplus without much effort. By that time, I’ll be an old, crusty man thinking about how wonderful it is that we can bio engineer everything now -- but most importantly its implications on food, such as how wonderful my lobster tastes because of a certain rare extract in my butter derived from cell systems.

Gifs from Big Bang Theory and Easy A (please talk to me about them)

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