DeFeo Foundation Undergraduate Research Initiative

An innovative research experience for Northwestern undergraduates

The DeFeo Family Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Synthetic Biology

Explore research by joining a synthetic biology laboratory as a Northwestern undergraduate student. Gain training in synthetic biology research skills (how to choose a research problem, how to conduct lab research, analyze data, communicate research); build confidence in pursuing a career in synthetic biology; and understand different career trajectories within synthetic biology (bench research, entrepreneurship, intellectual property, consulting, etc.).

Two-year cohort starting in summer 2024:

  • Full-time commitment in summer 2024 (37.5 hours/week)
  • Immersed in academic research lab in junior and senior year (10 hours/week)
  • Gain training in synthetic biology research skills
  • Build confidence in pursuing a career in synthetic biology
  • Understand different career trajectories within synthetic biology
  • Student stipend to cover summer research time, materials and supplies for research

Specific curricular activities include:

  • Monthly cohort meetings 
  • Laboratory skills training and introduction to synthetic biology techniques 
  • Experiential learning project to explore a non-technical topic, such as entrepreneurship, ethics, or policy, related to your main research project 
  • Participation in CSB coursework 
  • Workshops, seminars and activities to strengthen related skillsets including communication, design, ethics, teamwork, and entrepreneurship 
  • Teatime with faculty 
  • Field trips to local synthetic biology companies 
  • Community activities such as annual retreat, ethics conversations, workshops, and Research in Progress (RIP) meetings 


  • Current Northwestern sophomores who have an interest in working at the interface of biology, chemistry, math, and engineering
  • If you are not currently doing undergraduate research, you are still eligible to apply and upon admission to the program, would be assigned to a CSB lab.
  • If you are currently doing research in a non-CSB lab or do not plan on switching to one of our labs, you must explain how your research is SynBio and what you hope to gain from the program.

The application window for 2024 has closed. Please stay tuned for updates about future cohorts!

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