Haynes Featured in People Behind the Science

The “People Behind the Science” podcast explores the lives and experiences of the people behind the research and scientific discoveries of today. People Behind the Science’s mission is to inspire current and future scientists, share the different paths to a successful career in science, educate the general population on what scientists do,  and show the human side of science. Episode 314 is “Dr. Karmella Haynes: Expressing Her Creativity Making Epigenetic Machinery and Designing Biological Devices” by host Dr. Marie McNeely.

Read highlights of the interview and listen to a recording here: http://www.peoplebehindthescience.com/dr-karmella-haynes/

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ASU Brings Syn Bio to Fifth Graders

Cassandra Barrett, a new PhD student in the Haynes lab worked with ASU professor Dr. Michael Caplan (SBHSE) and middle school science teacher Maki Fullerton to present a synthetic biology demonstration for fifth grade students at Phoenix Country Day School on Thursday, October 22, 2015. Popular demonstrations about DNA use simple and effective extraction techniques where participants are invited to pull gooey threads of DNA from preparations of smashed strawberries or bananas. The synthetic biology demonstration is unique in that it shows students how DNA can be used to make a real living system do interesting things

The demonstration is based on an activity developed for K-12 students by the organization BioBuilder. “Eu That Smell” helps students learn about lab-safe E. coli that have been genetically altered to convert a simple aromatic molecule into different molecule called isoamyl acetate, which has a distinct banana-like scent. The genetic plug-in that drives the conversion is aptly called the Banana Odor Generator (BBa_J45200); it was developed by an International Genetically Engineered Machines competition (iGEM) team from MIT in 2006. Cassandra Barrett has participated in iGEM herself as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota in 2014. Dr. Karmella Haynes requested the DNA from the iGEM Parts Registry and transferred the DNA into lab-safe E. coli that Dr. Caplan and Cassandra set up in the classroom. 

Photos provided by Maki Fullerton.

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2015 Synberc Scholars Program for STEM Minorities

Haynes Lab Synberc Scholars 2015: Synthetic Biology for Cancer Research
Build DNA & make an impact on underserved communities.

About the Synberc Scholars Program: The Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (Synberc) is a multi-institutional organization that is seeking talented and motivated underrepresented STEM minority undergraduates who are  interested in gaining research experience in the cutting-edge field of synthetic biology. Synberc Scholars gain research experience in top-tier synthetic biology labs, preparing the Scholar for career opportunities in academia and industry. http://synberc.org/scholars

Research in the Haynes Lab: It is imperative that new, high-tech fields benefit all people rather than a select few. The lab of Dr. Karmella Haynes at ASU (Tempe Campus) uses synthetic biology to discover new treatments for cancer. Dr. Haynes is a Synberc Affiliated Investigator. She is also an early-career NIH Investigator for the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD). Her project is supported by the “NCI Mentored Research Scientist Development Award to Promote Diversity.” The Synberc Scholar will work in the Haynes lab ~5 hours per week: (1) learning protocols and constructing synthetic DNA and (2) completing an investigative report to discover how synthetic biology can impact underserved communities. http://haynes.lab.asu.edu

Eligibility & Application: The applicant must be must be from a group underrepresented in the STEM fields (African-American, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander…applicants from other groups may inquire about general lab volunteering opportunities). The applicant must be enrolled at ASU (any department) as an undergraduate and be in good academic standing. Please send a (1) cover letter (e-mail) explaining why you are a good fit for the aims of this program and research project, with a (2) resume or c.v. and (3) an unofficial transcript attached, to karmella.haynes@asu.edu before August 20, 2015. No letters of recommendation are required.

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Is There Molecular Cell Biology in ASU BME?

Dear Biomedical Engineering (BME) First-year Student,

As you know, the first year in a college program is a very critical year. You don’t have long to make a decision about which major(s) to seal a ~4-year long commitment with. You may have spoken with peers, second-year students and beyond, or professors at ASU and heard about all of the mathematical, programming, computer, and hardware design classes that are required in the BME curriculum. You may have heard some people comment that BME does not offer much for those interested in genetic engineering, molecular cell biology, synthetic biology, and other fields related to studying and manipulating DNA, proteins, stem cells, antibodies, etc.

A bit worried, you may have approached me or other BME faculty and asked “should I stay in BME or switch to the School of Life Sciences (SOLS)?” You may have received different answers.

I am writing this open letter to give you some helpful and important insights into BME. The molecular cell biology content offered in the BME major may not be obvious after just skimming the course titles. However, the content is indeed there and with the hiring of new faculty in Molecular Cell and Tissue Bioengineering and Synthetic Biology, the content is growing. Importantly, the molecular cell biology content offered by BME is presented in a way that makes the medical applications much more obvious than most other courses offered by other programs. If medical context appeals to you, I personally encourage you to stick with BME.

1. Start Planning Now to Take the Following Courses

BME100 – Introduction to Biomedical Engineering (Lecture and Lab)
Offered: Fall, Spring
Offered by: Profs. Garcia, Haynes, Kleim
You will learn about: Cell engineering, gene delivery, gene networks, DNA analysis

BME318 – Biomaterials (Lecture and Lab)
Offered: Fall, Spring
Offered by: Prof. Stabenfeldt, Dr. Ankeny
You will learn about: Protein interactions, cell adhesion/ scaffolding, inflammatory response, immune response, infection

BME331 – Mass Transport
Offered: Fall, Spring
Offered by: Prof. Caplan
You will learn about: Biomolecules, cell transport

BME494/598 – Molecular Synthetic Biology
Offered: Spring (even years)
Offered by: Prof. Haynes
You will learn about: Synthetic genes, molecular cloning, gene delivery, gene & protein design

The International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM)
Not a course, but a spin-out of BME494/598. One of the student-designed projects developed in the course will be offered support (lab space, materials, iGEM registration fees, travel). The project will be completed over the following summer. The international conference/ competition occurs in early Fall.

…And several courses for MS and PhD graduate students (500-level and above)


2. Consider Adding a Life Sciences Class to Your Curriculum

Find a biology course that has a strong quantitative emphasis (e.g., bioinformatics, protein engineering, biochemistry). If you are going to engineer biological systems, you will need to learn how math and computer software is used to understand biology, in addition to the basic concepts and some wet lab techniques. Discuss with your academic advisor how to fit one or a few of these classes into your curriculum. Do not over-commit…prioritize the classes that fit your interests.

3. Plan to Secure a Position in a Wet Lab

BME professors run research labs when they are not teaching. Visit the BME faculty page to find links to their labs’ websites. Find one or more that you are interested in. Send them an e-mail and ask if they have any room for undergraduate volunteers. Over time while you are volunteering, if you find that the lab is a good fit write up an idea for a FURI proposal.

4. Keep Track of Changes in the Course Offerings

ASU is growing very quickly. Almost every year, a new faculty joins a department here, including SBHSE (BME). Look out for new SBHSE faculty who focus on molecular cell biology and find out what classes they are offering. This information can be easily accessed by looking up that faculty’s directory profile page.


I hope that you find this bit of advice helpful. All the best on your career path, wherever it may take you.

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Review on Engineered Quorum Sensing Published in Frontiers

Figure 2. Homoserine lactone (HSL)-based genetic wiring supports the function of sophisticated synthetic systems.

Can the natural diversity of quorum-sensing advance synthetic biology?” a review written by Rene Davis (Biological Design PhD student, SBHSE), Ryan Muller (Undergraduate, SOLS), and Dr. Karmella Haynes (SBHSE) was accepted by the journal Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. This article is part of the research topic “Synthetic Biology: engineering complexity and refactoring cell capabilities.”

View the article at this link: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fbioe.2015.00030/full

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Haynes Lab Students Present Research at IBE

On March 5 – 7, Cameron Gardner (BME, SBHSE) and Jimmy Xu (BME, SBHSE) presented their work on synthetic biology at the Institute of Biological Engineering 2015 Annual Conference in St. Louis, MO. Cameron Gardner presented his human cell research with a poster titled “Isolation and Testing of Synthetic Polycomb Transcription Factors”. Jimmy Xu presented his work in developing a synthetic biology project kit for high schools with a poster titled ”Massively Open Online Research for Secondary Education in Synthetic Biology.”

Cameron Gardner is supported by FURI.
Jimmy Xu is supported by NSF CBET.
The Institute of Biological Engineering (IBE) is a professional organization which encourages inquiry and interest in biological engineering.

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CSHL Synthetic Biology Course – 2015

The 2015 Cold Spring Harbor Summer Course in Synthetic Biology will take place July 27 – August 10.The course will focus on how the complexity of biological systems, combined with traditional engineering approaches, results in the emergence of new design principles for synthetic biology. The Course centers around an immersive laboratory experience. Here, students will work in teams to learn the practical and theoretical underpinnings of cutting edge research in the area of Synthetic Biology. Broadly, we will explore how cellular regulation – transcriptional, translational, post-translational, and epigenetic – can be used to engineer cells to accomplish well-defined goals.

Instructors for 2015:
John Dueber,University of California, Berkeley
Mary Dunlop, University of Vermont
Karmella Haynes, Arizona State University
Julius Lucks, Cornell University
Pamela Peralta-Yahya, Georgia Institute of Technology
Stanley Qi, Stanford University 

Read Instructor bios at  https://cshlsynbio.wordpress.com/instructors2015/

Invited Speakers are current leaders in synthetic biology, who will present seminars on their research, industrial developments, and other recent developments in the field. Students will have the opportunity to interact with the speakers in an intimate setting:
Elisa Franco, University of California, Riverside
Emma Frow, Arizona State University
Mo Khalil, Boston University
Nathan Hilton, Joint BioEnergy Institute
Thomas Knight, Ginkgo BioWorks
Vincent Noireaux, University of Minnesota
Pamela Silver, Harvard Medical School
Danielle Tullman-Erceck, University of California, Berkeley

An up-to-date Speakers list is available at https://cshlsynbio.wordpress.com/speakers/

For more information about the course and instruction on how to apply, visit http://cshlsynbio.wordpress.com.

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Haynes Receives NIH K-Award

Dr. Karmella Haynes is the recipient of a Mentored Research Scientist Development Award to Promote Diversity (K01) from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Karmella Haynes wants to help the body fight cancer by designing proteins to stop the disease. “We have the ability to build new synthetic proteins by borrowing pieces of the natural DNA-folding proteins. The new synthetic proteins are designed to counteract cancer-associated chromatin folding,” Haynes explained. Supported by a grant from National Cancer Institute through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), she is working on a technique for effectively introducing the engineered proteins into chromatin structures.

~~~Building Proteins to Counteract Cancer. Joe Kullman, ASU News.

Related news articles:

  1. Kullan, J. (2014) Building Proteins to Counteract Cancer. ASU Engineering Full Circle. http://fullcircle.asu.edu/2014/11/11439/
    • Also in: ASU News [now] Science & Tech. https://asunews.asu.edu/20141110-haynes-proteins-fight-cancer
    • Also in: ASU Inner Circle Fulton Schools News Roundup. http://innercircle.engineering.asu.edu/2014/11/10/fulton-schools-news-roundup-23/
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Haynes Lab Students Present Research at Synberc MIT Event

Over the weekend of September 26 – 28, Rene Davis (Biological Design PhD, SBHSE) and David Barclay (BME, SBHSE) presented their work on engineering chromatin in mammalian cells at the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center‘s Fall 2014 Retreat at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Rene Davis presented a talk on “Mammalian Cell Engineering and Chromatin,” which started with an overview of the chromatin engineering projects in the Haynes lab, followed by details of her own new project that investigates the impact of chromatin on genome engineering. David Barclay presented a poster, titled “A synthetic fusion protein for epigenetic control of pancreatic cell function,” which gave an update on his progress with experiments that are a key part of the Synberc “Programmable Organoids” collaboration with MIT and Harvard.

Synberc is an NSF-funded and Industry-supported center that provides full travel support twice a year for students from Synberc labs to share their research in synthetic biology. 

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Synthetic Biology meets Capitol Hill

From ASU News: “ASU professor speaks to Congress about supporting synthetic biology research

“Karmella Haynes was among scientists and engineers to address national leaders at a recent U.S. Congressional briefing on issues raised by the emerging field of synthetic biology… The rapid advance of synthetic biology has prompted discussions about how to weigh the benefits of the research against potential social and ethical implications, and concerns about safety… Haynes and two colleagues – Steve Evans [Dow AgroSciences] and Jay Keasling [Director of Synberc] – gave presentations on those questions to staff members representing members of Congress, National Science Foundation officials, science journalists and other interested parties.”

Remarks were given by U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell of California. The session was moderated by Pramod Khargonekar, NSF assistant director for Engineering.


  1. ASU News. ASU professor speaks to Congress about supporting synthetic biology research. https://asunews.asu.edu/20140718-haynes-congress-briefing-bioengineering
  2. National Science Foundation. Media advisory: Learn the latest on synthetic biology at a June 26 Capitol Hill briefing. http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=131810
  3. Genome Compiler. Leading scientists address congress on future of synthetic biology. http://www.genomecompiler.com/leading-scientists-address-congress-on-future-of-synthetic-biology/
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