In this episode, we interview Dr. Kate Adamala, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota and a leader in Build-a-Cell, an international community of scientists and policymakers working on building synthetic cells. We talk to Dr. Adamala about building cells from the ground up, life beyond planet Earth, and the definition of life.
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Episode transcripts are the unedited output from Whisper and likely contain errors.
Hello and welcome back to EBRC in Translation. We're a group of graduate students and postdocs working to bring you conversations with members of the engineering biology community. I'm Andrew Hunt, a graduate student in the Jewett Lab at Northwestern University. And I'm Katherine Brink, a postdoc in Megan Palmer's group at Stanford University. Today we're joined by Kate Atamala, an assistant professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development at the University of Minnesota. Kate is also a co-founder and leader of Build a Cell, an international community of scientists and policymakers working on building synthetic cells. Thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks for having me in. Hi everyone. So to get us started off, could you tell us about your journey to becoming a professor and professional cell builder? I'm not sure if I'm a professional cell builder yet because we haven't done it. Once we do it, I'll use that as a claim to fame. My journey to be a PI was kind of weird because when I was growing up, I was naive enough to think that being a professor is just something you can plan for and it happens. I didn't anticipate how difficult that is and how much luck is involved. So I just kind of set out ever since I remembered to saying, I want to be a scientist. I want to do science, whatever that means. Obviously, I had no idea what it means to run a lab. So I studied chemistry as one does because I thought chemistry is the right way to study biology. Just like the people that study math, they will tell you math is everything. Physics is all math. The people that study physics will tell you all chemistry is physics. I stopped at chemistry. All biology is chemistry in my mind. So I studied chemistry and then I went to do my PhD in Italy and then I moved to Boston half way through the PhD and then I finished grad school in Boston. Then I wanted to do something useful because my grad school was in origin of life and astrobiology. Then I figured it would be interesting to see if my work has some practical real-life applications. So I went to do a post-doc in a neurobiology lab and that was a great experience because it taught me I don't really like biology. So when I started my own lab, I figured I want to do something that is not hardcore biology but is still really cool, kind of fundamental research question that has practical real-life applications. There are really, at least obviously I'm wrong, but in my mind there are only two questions like that in science right now. One is how does brain work? How does human brain work? The other one is what is life? How does life work? Life as a biological phenomena. Science, I already figured I don't like neurobiology. Then how does life work? What's the transition between non-living and living matter was the only fundamental question left that I felt like it would be fun to investigate and that's kind of the story of how my lab came to be. That's very cool and I really like both of those questions. I think they're really deep and interesting. Along those lines, can you maybe talk about now that you have an established lab, what are the main thrusts in your lab and what directions are you planning to take your research in? The direction question is easier. I would like to build a synthetic cell, living synthetic cell built from non-living components. I'm up for tenure in two years so that's my deadline. It will be done in that timeline obviously. The general ideas that we're investigating in the lab is how can we study and modify biology using established molecular biology tools but from different perspectives. We're looking at building synthetic cells as a chassis for some fundamental research questions like origin of life, origin of multicellularity, origin of organelles but then also stuff that pays the bills. How can you use synthetic cells as biomedical devices, smart liposomes that homing on a cancer cell for example and then how can you use synthetic cells for bioengineering as a bio manufacturing platform. We're essentially a tool developer lab. We're hardcore synthetic biologists that don't much care about the biological questions. We just want to build the tools and hopefully people will come and use those tools. We have a lot of collaborators that actually have real biological systems that we can build tools for. On the practical level we work with synthetic cells that we understand as liposomal bioreactors that express proteins and we program those synthetic cells or those liposomal bioreactors to have whatever functions we want for the particular experiment. So either we're building them to survive in a bloodstream, mammalian bloodstream or to manufacture large amounts of a certain protein or small molecule or the most fun experiments. I can't say I have the most fun experiments. It's not saying I have a favorite child but there are some experiments that I get more excited about and these are the really fundamental research question experiments like the trying to build a synthetic cell that looks like a first last universal common ancestor population of cells. So how does life started on earth and even more interestingly what could that first population of cells look like under different physicochemical conditions. So what if we try to mimic a Martian evolution back when Mars was wet and warm or under the ice on Europa, how could we create a cell-like structure that could survive under those conditions. So this is the astrobiology part of the lab that I'm really excited about and then we have some research thrusts that combine the astrobiology cool NASA stuff with the actual practical applications and that is on-demand biomedicine production of small amounts of protein or a therapeutic molecule from a cell-free system or a synthetic cell system on demand and that has practical medical applications but that also is a tool for long-term space exploration so we can build those little flying pharmacies that people will take with them to Mars and so that's kind of brief overview of the stuff we're doing. So the origin of life astrobiology space exploration work that you're doing is fascinating and we will come back to it I promise but I first want to ask a question that I think a lot of our listeners might have which is that a lot of synthetic biologists myself included when I was working in the lab during my PhD worked with living cells instead of synthetic cells like naturally occurring cells are ones that we engineer. So I'd like you to give us your best pitch for why we should use synthetic cells instead or for what applications we should use synthetic cells instead of living cells. We need synthetic cells because right now all of biology is done on a sample size that equals one because we only have one type of modern terrestrial life that all that's all we know right now and we can't really call ourselves scientists if all we investigate is a single system. So to me the biggest reason for using synthetic cells is to go beyond the restrictions of natural biology. There is a lot of constraints that are built into our living systems and their natural consequence of evolution on this planet in the environments of this planet and also it's a natural consequence of the fact that every living cell has this basic business model of staying alive and making more of itself and only after those two requirements are satisfied the cell might or might not consider doing what you want it to do which is by a production or doing whatever experiments you need. With synthetic cells if we build them to spec from scratch they will not have any of those built-in constraints. So it's a biological system that allows you to truly engineer it. Hopefully the parts will be swappable so you will be able to build whatever systems you need. Building synthetic cells doesn't mean we don't care about natural cells at all. Right now we're building synthetic cells that are made of natural components and the idea is to build at least at first synthetic cell that is as closely resembling a natural cell as possible in functions if not in form and so the idea is that we don't want to be stuck with this single biological system that nature gave us. We would like to be able to expand beyond that and we would like to be able to do things natural cells cannot do and do things that we might not even think about as life being capable of doing. For example creating just one example is creating chemical bonds using a ribosome that the ribosome did not evolve to create originally and that's obviously by production implications or investigate alternative pathways in evolution investigating different roots of the tree of life that's more of a fundamental research question. So yeah I'm not inherently against life cell research obviously that's good and needs to be done I just think synthetic cells will let us expand would let us go beyond this gravitational well of Darwinian evolution that we're stuck in right now because of what we are and who we are. Yeah I think related to this one of my favorite things about your work and a lot of work in synthetic biology in general but I think your work really exemplifies this as sort of this idea that is often ascribed to this quote from Richard Feynman which sometimes is maybe a little bit overused but I think really hits the nail on the head which is that he said well what I cannot build I cannot understand. Could you talk a little bit how this approach drives your work and why you find it so appealing? This quote is exactly what drives our field. Most of the people in the field of synthetic biology in general and especially synthetic cell engineering are engineers either by training or engineers at heart and it drives us crazy that we can't really engineer a living cell. Engineering a living cell is kind of like petting a porcupine. You have to do it really carefully with one finger and be ready to run if something doesn't work because natural cells are just designed to be robust under the conditions that they evolved in and what we're trying to do to them is counterintuitive. It's not what nature designed. I don't want to say designed. It's a dangerous word. It's not what nature trained them evolved them to do and so we want to be able to engineer. We want to be able to build structures, build function from well characterized parts that are well understood and swappable with each other and that can only be done in synthetic systems. Biological systems are one they're too complex. We don't understand a full living cell and if I don't understand something I can't really engineer it and also biological systems are optimized for what they're paid to do which is surviving and a lot of the time we don't want that in our experiment. We want the cell to make a toxic chemical or a toxic drug or we want to investigate some functions that are not necessarily in the best interest of the cell and if you try to do that with a natural cell a lot of the time you can run your experiments for a while and then you stress the natural cell enough that it just curls up and dies and you have a dead cell and nothing happens. If you work with synthetic cells there is this very mild slope from fully healthy functioning system to a completely non-functioning system. It's not a precipitous barrier that because it's not a living system it cannot just crash and die. It slowly starts being de-optimized so for example protein expression slowly decays, the energy regeneration slowly decays but it's not a binary system where it works or it doesn't and that lets us study those edge conditions that let us really get deep into the molecular basis of a lot of those processes that make life be life and that's going back to the Feynman quote that is exactly what we're doing. We want to be able to manipulate every part of a cell. We can't do that with live cells so we have to do that with synthetic cells and we will never be able to say I truly understand what makes molecules do life unless I'm able to make life from those molecules. So this is sort of related to what you were talking about earlier with this goal of building a synthetic minimal cell. Could you walk us through the path that that would take in terms of like the research milestones that would need to happen in order to get to that point? That's a very loaded question because it it creates dangerously close to the question of what is life and nobody knows. We have kind of experimental milestones that we're trying to reach. Some of them are pretty obvious for example in order to have a living system we need to go through rounds of growth and division so those liposomes need to be able to grow and then they need to be able to divide. They need to be able to divide their replicate and divide their content as well so DNA replication and replication of all of the machinery that's necessary for translation. So not just replicating a one gene, actually replicate all the genes that make translation system and that creates a whole bunch of control theory problems because how do you replicate and how do you express certain genes at correct stoichiometries. Nature spends a lot of money regulating gene expression. Picking which gene gets expressed at any given time and that's a huge design and engineering challenge for synthetic cells is how do we take let's say 200 genes to make a minimal metabolism? How do we regulate which of those genes get expressed at the right time in the right amount? So that's a huge engineering challenge that will definitely be a major milestone towards building a self-replicating synthetic cell. Another thing is a lot of people would say a synthetic cell has to self-replicate. I make a claim that it has to replicate. It doesn't have to self-replicate. If we can find a way to replicate the content of a synthetic cell with a trigger that's applied by us, by kind of the experimentalist, that will count for me and the analogy I like to use here is if you grow HeLa cells in a dish, yes they replicate on their own but if you don't passage them at the right time they're gonna die. So is that system not living because it requires intervention at a specific time? There's a mandatory intervention into cell culture without which the cells won't survive and yet everyone would say HeLa cells are definitely alive. So in a synthetic cell system that would mean where do we draw the line at the mandatory intervention? If they self-replicate and you have to passage them is that the minimum intervention or maybe we need to replicate them? Maybe that's minimal intervention and so that's that goes back to the fact that there is no definition of life and nobody can agree of what life is. I think the success of our field is defined by the happiness of the reviewers basically. If we build something and people agree this is a living cell then we won. Most likely we'll build something and some people will agree it's living, some people will say it's not and we'll keep having that conversation until the synthetic cell evolves a hand and waves to us because then I think it will be undeniably alive. I'm curious so that makes me think of the work going on to try and make like a self-replicating RNA only enzyme like an RNA polymerase that can make itself. Do you think a lot of people argue that you need sort of some sort of compartmentalization for something to be considered life? Do you think that you could have a simple simple system where maybe it was a continuous reactor where you had a self-replicating RNA like that? Do you think something like that could be getting close to that or do you think you require a little bit more actual compartmentalization, non-manufactured compartmentalization in the way that like a more traditional bioreactor as opposed to like a liposome for example? There's a lot of discussion in a field about that. To me one of the hallmarks of life is doing something different than your environment does. So essentially maintaining hemostasis and for that you need compartmentalization. That's why in my small restricted mind I see compartmentalization as a requirement for life. So a self-replicating hypercycle of a ribozyme in solution would not quite fit the definition of life for me. On the other hand it would fit NASA definition of life which is a self-replicating chemical system that can undergo Darwinian evolution and a self-replicating ribozyme system will be self-replicating and will undergo Darwinian evolution. So it will count as life for some people, not for me though. I think I'm pretty happy with both definitions to be honest. Speaking of NASA, could you tell us a little bit more about your vision in terms of the role that synthetic cells could play in astrobiology or in other sorts of space exploration contexts? My guess is in order to be able to really go out into space we need some sort of a radical synthetic biology solution. Synthetic cells are obviously unbiased but they're my favorite radical synthetic biology solution for most problems. The reason for that is we all watch the movie where a guy goes to Mars and grows potatoes on Martian regolith. That's not going to work like that. For one, Martian regolith is too toxic to grow earth plants. There were actually experiments done to prove that. Also, if you put people in a spaceship for two, three years they will get sick and you cannot predict what will they get sick with in advance. FedEx doesn't deliver to a spaceship on a Martian orbit so if they get sick and they need drugs they'll have to make those drugs on demand. You can't pack everything you will need, all the possible drugs, possible nutrients, anything you will need in advance for a long mission like that. So you need to have onboard capacity to bio-manufacture anything that you will need for your crew. We don't have a robust programmable bio-manufacturing platform right now. We as people are really good at bio-manufacturing of specific things that we spent a lot of time optimizing. So we have those thousand liter watts of bacteria that synthesize one drug but it took a couple years to get there, at least a couple if not more years, to get there to prepare every strain. Building the pathway is not the problem. Convincing a bug to express that pathway efficiently is the problem. We have great bio-manufacturing capacities but every pathway, every new product requires a lot of R&D behind it to get it to work and so that's not viable if you're stuck on a spaceship with limited resources and limited space. We need a versatile robust on-demand bio-manufacturing platform and in my mind the most efficient way to do it is to cut out the cell, cut out the cell that has their own mind, their own survivability goals and just do it with the protein expression machinery, pure dumb protein expression machinery and that is what a synthetic cell is right now. It's a bioreactor that has capacity to make proteins without caring about those proteins being toxic or worrying about the flux of metabolites through the system. So that makes it relatively easy to imagine that this could be a on-demand bio-manufacturing platform. So once we send astronauts to Mars they should be able to make whatever they need on short notice. Six to twelve hours is the timeline that most people use and also there will be a lot of other problems we'll have to deal with which is waste, utilization and then once we actually do land and want to stay there and I'm going to be very unpopular with planetary protection people right now but I think once we really want to establish ourselves out there we should start terraforming and again most earth organisms will nope out of terraforming Mars because the regolith is toxic, that Mars has no usable atmosphere. We need to build an organism on demand, we need to build something like a polyextremophile, an organism that will be able to survive under the most harsh conditions and then take their sweet century or so to really terraform the regolith to the point when we can actually start growing those potatoes. So the synthetic cells are a good candidate for that because we can build them to spec and obviously by the time we get to the point of terraforming another planet we have to have the synthetic cells to be self-replicating and really self-replicating not a grad student induced replication which is you know one of the goals of our field is to be able to eventually self-replicate so that's to me synthetic cells are basically programmable cells that can be convinced to do whatever you need them to do and that's what we need for a long-term space exploration until we develop Star Trek style replicators to make everything we need. We have to use biology to make it and that biology should be really robust and made to spec and that's what the cells are. I'm still waiting for the Star Trek style replicators myself. I think that's that's the ultimate goal but you know in order to get there we need to be less ambitious first let's just make life first then we'll make I think along those lines and and maybe a little bit more broadly could you talk about how origin of life research intersects with applications I think that as a really really interesting deep scientific questions about origin of life research but I think there are cool applications that come out of it so could you me to talk a little bit about that? When you study origin of life what you're essentially looking at is the simplest most primitive cells and once you have a simple cell you can think of it as a blank slate for evolution and that life chose to evolve the way it did to create us and dogs and porcupines and whatnot we if we have this basic chassis for life we can choose to evolve it into different directions and that's where the practical applications comes in. Once we make a cell that resembles the first primitive terrestrial cell this last universal common ancestor Lucas cell we'll be able to evolve it and then we can pick which directions we're evolving it and that's where the biotech and biomedical applications comes in. We'll be able to evolve that organism which will you know mind you we built it so we should understand it completely and we should be able to modify it any way we want and so we'll be able to evolve it for biomanufacturing of toxic things for really high yield biomanufacturing because we can redesign the entire metabolism and we'll be able to evolve it for biomedical applications imagine CAR T cells that are made to spec and do not go on and give a patient leukemia for example and then we'll also be able to study those fundamental research questions of what is the boundary between the living and non-living matter how did life start why evolution moved the direction it did we'll be able to study all the big transitions in evolution for example i will be able to study the origin of organelles the origin of photosynthesis and that brings up another very useful application people that study the origin of photosynthesis essentially studying the origin of the photo system and a synthetic cell photo system built from scratch has a chance of being evolved into a more efficient photo system you know rubisco for being the most prevalent protein on earth is a really terrible enzyme it's not very efficient and it just what's stuck it created the the giant extinction event it poisoned the earth with oxygen and then it just took off and now it's everywhere but it's not a really good enzyme so if we want to think about practical applications of better energy production sustainable energy production higher crop yields we need to evolve the photo system and synthetic cells are chassis for doing that and that ties back to the origin question of how did the organelles how did the photo system came to be in the first place so along those lines to thinking about plants and other types of eukaryotic systems do you think after we might have sort of an individual synthetic cell there's an opportunity to have multicellular systems that come out of this as well and more kind of emergent behaviors i hope so i i definitely hope so it's it's a long way to get there origin of multicellularity is a relatively difficult field even with natural cells to study as far as i know there was i think only one experimental case of making a unicellular organism become multicellular as a result of experimental evolution so it's not like we're really good at it and we know how to do it but i'm hoping with synthetic cells we will be able to do multicellular structures maybe sometime long after you get tenure and have already made a self-replicating minimal cell it could be a future research direction that's that's for the promotion to be a full professor so i'm curious a little bit about the ethical and maybe societal implications of building new self-replicating systems could you could you speak to that a little bit it's definitely something we think about it's not something we lose any sleep over most of the time the safety and security implications are something we take extremely seriously building cells is an ultimate gain of function research so we try to anticipate couple steps ahead what could happen right now science day they are not self-replicating horizontal gene transfer is pretty much the only thing we have to worry about and all the standard lab protocols are enough to keep us safe in this case there is a lot of people that think synthetic cells will be able to be used for environmental applications for example for bio-mitigation for cleaning up toxic waste spills and at that point we'll have to make sure like with every synthetic biology product that we are in a full control of what we built in a way with synthetic cells it should be easier because we're building the metabolism from scratch so we'll be able to really truly embed kill switches so the life finds a way principle might not necessarily apply to synthetic cells since they've been built in the lab so in that way those technologies should be more controllable and easier to contain than life cell based modified cells in terms of ethical aspects that's a very personal question to whoever thinks about it a lot of people think that if we build life in the lab that will be the final proof that there was no creator because we can do it but then there's a lot of people that think the fact that humans can create life in the lab is exactly a confirmation of an intelligent design because we're intelligent at least sort of intelligent and if we create life that only proves that life has to be created by an intelligent design so it's you know it's a very personal thing it depends on your world view i think to me it's just a fascinating kind of boundary to investigate and as with every research on the boundary of something unknown once we make that breakthrough once we actually do make life from non-life a lot of people smarter than me will be thinking about those ethical implications and philosophical implications i'll just go go back to pipetting so thinking about sort of broader community level efforts around synthetic cells you are a co-founder and leader in build a cell and i was wondering if you could tell us more about what build a cell is and how it's grown since it was founded a few years ago in 2017 but this cell was an idea that came out of drew and this lab and one day i think i was at some meeting with drew and he said hey do you want to come to that meeting in i think it was in at caltech in like a month we're having this meeting about building cells and i actually happened to be in the area right around that time so it was easy to add one day on the trip and that was that's how i ended up being at the first official build a cell workshop and then we decided at that workshop not decided everyone pretty much agreed that this is what we've all been thinking is that building life is not something a single lab or even a single country can do it has to be a community effort for one it has to be a community effort because not no single lab or a single group of people is smart enough and has all the expertise that's needed to build life so we have to bring in as many people from different backgrounds as possible and then once we actually do it once we do build synthetic cells this will be a technological advancement that has to belong to the entire scientific community it cannot be hidden behind the paywall it cannot be owned by a single country or a single community so we have to work on it as a international community also keeping it open and international helps with some of the safety and security concerns that people might have and it also helps everyone to have access to two benefits of that research and that's where the build a cell came from we basically decided this is the coolest research question ever we're nice people we should work together and that's how that's how the whole thing started so what exactly does the organization do we try to coordinate research that's our main goal is to bring people from different backgrounds people that work on synthetic cells and people that don't even know that they work on synthetic cells because there's a lot of elements needed for synthetic cell engineering that come from different areas of research and people in those areas might not have been thinking about it we come to them and say hey your research is actually really useful for let's say building complex genetic circuits in a synthetic cell would you like to help us so we're kind of this this magnet that tries to attract everyone who might work on something that's useful for our community we're also forcing the community to talk to each to each other we're bringing the labs that work on it together we're bringing most especially the trainees you know pi is running to each other we know each other but the trainees really need to know each other from the beginning we need to talk and the main goal of it is to avoid duplication of effort and we want to collaborate instead of compete you know the amount of money for research is always not enough so we shouldn't be wasting resources investigating the same problem that someone else is either already working on or someone already failed on it and that's another big thing that we're trying to emphasize is we need to share unpublished data including failed results failed projects because that can save someone else a lot of time and effort there is a lot of experiments that people tried repeatedly there are some ideas that when you talk to people at a meeting you say oh i had this idea and then someone said oh i tried that two years ago it doesn't work and then someone else who was standing right next to you said oh yeah you know what i tried that too it doesn't work that knowledge gets lost there is a lot of people that waste their half of their grad school or postdoc doing something that someone else already showed it's not going to work so having an open community where it's okay to talk about unpublished and negative results is something that's really helping and going to save our time also having a community helps to bring new people in helps to bring trainees in we have working groups we have weekly seminars that bring people together and make people actually talk to each other feel like they're part of this bigger community engineering synthetic cells is still something that a lot of people consider kind of weird one of those things that like yeah you're gonna make life from scratch whatever go be dr frankenstein and a lot of the time there is a one lab in the department that does it so having this international community helps our trainees and pi's to feel like we're not crazy and we're not alone they're actually there's you know there's dozens of us there's a whole international community of people that want to do it and most importantly believe that this will be done a lot of the time when you talk to kind of old school biologists you say i'm building synthetic cells they say oh this is super cool but you know this is never going to work and having a community of people that agree this will work this needs to be done and this will absolutely work really helps with sanity sometimes so that's that's what we're doing and then another kind of also important aspect of build a cell activities is we're trying to lobby for research funding and research support there are other international communities research communities that manage to come together and they manage to command huge resources you know there's billions of dollars spent to build a radio telescope or a high energy particle colliders we're not worse than those communities where our research question is as fascinating as astronomers or physicists we are a very well organized very productive the research community full of smart people we should be able to unite internationally and also command large resources and that's one of the things build a cell is trying to help to do is to facilitate that get people together and say we're here we deserve giant pot of money to do something really cool that's what we're trying to do do you have advice for how students and postdocs can contribute to those types of efforts to getting better science funding well do as good of a work in the lab as possible i mean results are what really brings in money also we always can use people doing outreach and education you know essentially the money for most most of science worldwide the money comes from the taxpayers so we need to convince those people that what we're doing is actually in their best interest it's a lot of people think that fundamental research is kind of useless and it's our job to convince the public that what we're doing actually has very practical applications real world applications that they will benefit from their countries will benefit from their economy will benefit from and their kids will benefit from because they will actually have a planet to live on in 100 years from now so this is one of the kind of the big thrusts of our activity as a community and that's something that everyone can join those efforts even if you're an undergrad student and you don't have access to a lab that works on synthetic cells if you're interested in that there's always opportunities for education for outreach and for kind of networking with people and being able to bring that science out to everybody else along those lines i'm curious what advice you would give to maybe an early career researcher who's interested in getting into origin of life research synthetic cell research i my career path was weird so my advice isn't probably the best one to to use but the biggest i guess the biggest piece of advice that i would give to everyone is don't fixate on a career path don't think you have to be a pi or nothing else will matter or you have to have a startup successful startup company or your life is wasted be flexible be open to different things be open to opportunities another piece of advice which a lot of people don't like unfortunately but you have to be mobile you have to be able to move around if you're born and raised in one city it's likely you will not find your career opportunities in that city or the perfect career opportunities be open to moving around not just within your country but moving around internationally pursue the opportunities rather than the place to live until it's time to find a faculty job then i strongly advise looking for great place to live first because you can build your lab and do whatever you want but when you're a trainee you should follow the great people and another thing is follow the people that do the work that you really find fascinating don't join a lab just because it's a big flashy lab that that has that's led by a fancy Nobel laureate or a god of startups if you're not feeling truly happy in that lab to get real good work done in science unfortunately it's a long hours job you're going to spend a lot of time in the lab if you're an experimental research trainee so you have to like the people you're with so a lot of the time academic prestige obviously that's important but that should be second to whether you like the people you're working with whether you like the community you like your lab you like your pi not just respect your pi but actually like them your life's going to be much easier if you're actually enjoying going to work every day well that's certainly great advice i like going to work every day so i hope everyone has that opportunity is there anything else that we haven't asked you about yet that you would like to mention one of the kind of really interesting questions that people often ask and i love to talk about is what are the boundaries what's the weirdest thing that a synthetic cell can do and i really like talking about it because it's unverifiable and i can talk nonsense and nobody can call me out because nobody was able to do it but i think as we engineer better synthetic cells we'll be able to see life do things that teresio life never did and we're not even aware of it being able to do so things like crazy division rates or things like really large or really small cells different cell to cell interactions different kinds of metabolism different kinds of biopolymers used to make life maybe even things as crazy as a three biopolymer life instead of just peptides and nucleic acids let's look for a third kind of a biopolymer to build metabolism things that kind of are out of a science fiction movie that i would really like to see and then you know eventually people are investigating life that's not even based on carbon we're not there i'm not there and i don't think i'll ever go there but that these are some fascinating and i don't want to say fringe but sites of our field right now is people investigating possibilities of a living system existing based on a completely different chemistry and that's just incredibly fascinating to me so thanks so much this has been really fascinating kate do you have anything that you'd like to plug to our listeners yes please check out build a cell seminars we meet weekly we have amazing group of speakers we have ebrc's own india talk a couple weeks ago we have a lot of pi's from our community we have people from all different kinds of research it's a really fun research seminar it's a good way to start a week or if you miss it you can always watch it on youtube so please check out our seminars and if you think this community is the best thing that ever happened to science please get in touch with us join a working group very cool well thanks so much for coming on the podcast it was really great talking to you thank you so much for having me this has been another episode of ebrc and translation a production of the engineering biology research consortiums student and postdoc association for more information about ebrc visit our website at ebrc.org if you are interested in becoming a member of the ebrc student and postdoc association you can find our membership application on our website a big thank you to the entire ebrc spa podcast team kathryn brink fatima anam andrew hunt adam silverman kevin reed ross jones david mai and kogze lee thanks also to ebrc for their support and to you our listeners for tuning in we look forward to sharing our next episode with you soon