Getting a grant is extremely exciting, especially for a young PI who has to find support after she has exhausted her start-up funds. In addition to receiving new funding, something else truly amazing happened. My science-communication skills were challenged like they had never been before. I got a very broad audience excited about synthetic biology…something that I believed only scientists and students could ever truly get excited about. The Women and Philanthropy grant application experience was worlds apart from what I am used to…scientifically convincing a panel of scientists that I am a scientist worth her salt who can science, science, science, and science. Instead, I had to identify the real impact that my work would have on my University, community, and the world; how stakeholders who are often taken for granted (the public) would benefit from the work.
I first put pen to paper to materialize my ideas for enabling distributed characterization of bioenginered parts at the 2012 Synthetic Biology Leadership Excellence Accelerator Program (SynBioLEAP), held in Arlington, VA (SynBioLEAP White Paper – “Incentive-Driven Information Sharing for Engineering Biology”). Since then I have been seeking out support and collaborators. After an unsuccessful attempt to get the project funded by the NSF as part of a Career proposal, I tried another route.
Women have an unconventional approach to science that is not always supported by funding agencies with less broad views on how science and research should be approached.
Dr. Peggy Rismiller
I sought out a collaboration with Catherine Seiler, curator of the amazing DNA plasmid repository DNASU, which is just across the street from my building on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. A few brainstorming sessions later the blueprint for “SB.ASU” (Synthetic Biology at ASU) was born. We formed a three-woman team, along with my graduate student Rene Davis, to apply for support from Women and Philanthropy.
The project aims take DNA parts repositories to a new level. We will develop a tool that gathers real experiences from research labs to describe how those parts function in living cells. Bioengineering needs functional data to move forward with rational design of new technologies to build new tools for biomedical and energy needs. We anticipate that the project will reduce the time, cost, and guesswork involved in bioengineering. Read more about the project in ASU Full Circle’s article by Joe Kullman.
1. ASU full Circle. Haynes looks to create a global resource for synthetic biology researchers. http://fullcircle.asu.edu/2014/05/10501/