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Seminar with Scott Lenaghan

Synthetic Biology and Engineering: One and the Same?

With the advent of advanced DNA synthesis technologies there has been a recent boom, essentially launching the field of synthetic biology. While engineering is not highlighted in the naming of this field, synthetic biology is broadly defined as the “building of new biological systems.” To achieve this goal means interfacing biology, computer science, physics, and of course the fundamental engineering disciplines. What if the “smarts” in a smart material were biological? What if a microrobot was composed of a silicon-based core and a biological propeller? What if a plant could be used to sense-and-report threats to troops on the battlefield? While these questions may seem more sci-fi than reality, they are the basis for several DoD projects currently funded at the newly launched Center for Agricultural Biology (CASB) at the University of Tennessee. To tackle such high-risk, high-reward projects requires an interdisciplinary group of researchers with complementary skills focused on innovating for the future. Over the course of this seminar, several of these topics will be explored with regards to how engineering and synthetic biology can work together for the benefit of both.

Since 2016, Scott C. Lenaghan has been an Assistant Professor within the Department of Food Science at the University of Tennessee, with an adjunct position in the Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering (MABE) Department. After completing a PhD from Auburn University in Biological Sciences, and a two-year postdoc in the MABE Department at the University of Tennessee, he was promoted to Research Assistant Professor within MABE in 2011. In 2013 he accepted a Research Assistant Professor position at the Center for Renewable Carbon (CRC) to lead an ARPA-E funded project on single-cell biology and bioengineering. Upon successful completion of that project, he accepted his current position within the Department of Food Science and has established a nationally recognized lab focused on the development and use of synthetic biology in engineered systems. His research and expertise cover a wide-range of disciplines, with a primary focus on engineering biological systems, biomaterials, and devices that utilize cutting-edge synthetic biology tools and approaches. A goal of his research is to expand the current definition of synthetic biology beyond molecular biology tools, translating advances into synthetic/engineered constructs, such as micro/nanorobots, diagnostic devices, and smart materials. Commensurate with these goals, in 2018, he founded and serves as the co-Director of the Center for Agricultural Synthetic Biology (CASB) along with Dr. C. Neal Stewart, Jr. In addition to his research, he currently teaches a course on molecular parasitology to introduce students to underrepresented pathogens that cause significant damage to the overall quality of life of humans and animals.



Thursday, February 7 at 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Dougherty Engineering Building, 409
1512 Middle Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations




Current Students, Faculty & Staff


Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering (MABE)

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