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Life sciences/Genetics/Genetic methods/Genetic analysis/DNA sequencing/DNA assembly

Jonathan Nguyen conducts his summer science class inside a library, but his students don’t whisper as they twist together DNA models or join an assembly line of peanut butter sandwich-making to learn more about genetic mutations.

Many students say it’s a change from their school-science classes, said Nguyen, a biology and anatomy teacher at Pennsauken High School in Pennsauken, New Jersey. The students “are so gun-shy about things like ‘don’t make a mess’ and ‘don’t make a mistake,’ ” he said, “and in science you’ve got to do both.”

Scientists have developed the first cell controlled by a synthetic genome, and now hope to use this method to probe the basic machinery of life and to engineer bacteria specially designed to solve environmental or energy problems.

The study was published online by the journal Science, at the Science Express website, on Thursday, 20 May. The Science authors discussed their findings in a Thursday press conference at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.