Professor Pamela Silver of Harvard Medical School (HMS) believes in biology’s potential to change the world. She sees a future where scientists routinely wield microbes against disease, using computers to turn bacteria into microscopic drug factories rapidly assembled from off-the-shelf biological parts.
She sees crops easing world hunger after being enhanced with the genes of extreme bacteria that give plants a second way to convert sunlight into biomass.
She sees a future where the cells of astronauts remember if they’ve been damaged by gamma rays, alerting doctors before cancer starts to grow.
Silver, a leader in the relatively new field of synthetic biology, is working toward that future, running multiple projects in two labs that employ nearly two dozen fellows, graduate students, undergraduates, and staff.