September 2014
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The Medford Lab


The Medford Lab is Hiring!

Job opening: Research Associate I or II

The Medford lab at Colorado State University is seeking applicants for a Research Associate position. A Master’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree in the Biosciences, Biochemistry, Plant Biology or a related field is required. Experience in molecular biology techniques including cloning and PCR, and/or experience working with plants and plant transformation, is highly desirable. The successful candidate must demonstrate U.S. employment eligibility; visa sponsorship will not be provided. There may be hiring restrictions given the federal funding source.

Interested people should apply via the Research Associate Open Pool.

Plant Synthetic Biology – What is it?

The Medford Lab at Colorado State University uses synthetic biology to redesign plants with useful traits and answer fundamental questions about natural processes. At its heart, synthetic biology differs from genetic engineering in its use of mathematical analysis, modeling, and orthogonal genetic parts to produce organisms with specialized functions. Synthetic biology in plants is a burgeoning field that shows great promise in areas such as bioenergy and security.

We have already developed a plant-based system with computer-designed receptors that activate a synthetic signal transduction pathway and trigger a transcriptional response. Using the tools of synthetic biology, we continue to adapt this system to new inputs and outputs. These outputs could include accumulation of biofuels, flowering or a visual response. At the same time, our investigations lead us to greater insights into how native molecules work. Our system is modular, allowing us to dissect fundamental plant processes. We are also developing digital genetic controls to allow precise regulation of our synthetic traits.

Current Medford Lab Projects

…Plant Sentinels

Prototype Plant SentinelsWe have developed a genetic circuit that allows a plant to detect a certain substance and report on its presence in a way that people or cameras can see. The system has several components: a computer-designed protein custom designed to detect the substance, a synthetic “biological wire” pathway that moves the detection signal into the nucleus, and any one of a variety of readouts. Thanks to its highly modular design, this basic system can be adapted to a wide variety of uses including detecting environmental pollutants. You can read about our first Plant Sentinel, capable of detecting TNT, here.

Our Plant Sentinel technology is being developed at Colorado State University in partnership with Phytodetectors, Inc. Please visit for more information.


Bioenergy plants


…Enhancing Production of Bioenergy Crops & Their Controls

We are applying synthetic biology principles to bioenergy production. This work is supported by ARPA-E, the cutting edge program of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Many plant species with potential for use as bioenergy crops are currently under-utilized, due to slow traditional breeding programs and inefficient plant transformation methods. To speed up the development of plants with with enhanced bioenergy traits, we are engineering synthetic genetic switches with digital-like behavior that are capable of controlling development in these species. These switches will significantly increase the efficiency of transformation of these species.


…High-Throughput Testing Methodologies


Good parts make good synthetic circuits. To build a genetic circuit that has predictable function and produces an appropriate level of output, we are developing new protocols for testing large numbers of genetic parts rapidly and accurately. This will greatly expand the number of building blocks we can use as we develop new synthetic circuits for plants.




Joining the Medford Lab

Interested in joining our team? Apply to one of our Hiring Pools for Research Associates, Postdocs, and Research Scientists.