Published: June 11, 2019

Person using a tablet to control droplets on the OpenDrop biochipGiving individuals more control of their healthcare by providing better home diagnostics can lower costs and increase access to care.  

In "Personal Biochips," a summer workshop taught at the ATLAS Institute, participants will build and explore a new technology that has this potential. Instead of lab technicians adding reagents, antigens and other solutions to biological samples in numerous time-consuming steps, the new programmable microfluidic biochips use electrical voltage to transport and combine droplets of fluid across an array of small electrodes. As part of the workshop, participants will assemble a microfluidic biochip, program it and then use it to splice genes from one organism into E. coli.

“This workshop is an opportunity to push the boundaries of technology in ways that disrupt and democratize the way we access healthcare,” says Mirela Alistar, incoming assistant professor of computer science with the ATLAS Institute, whose interests focus on ways healthcare around the world can be changed to make it more personal and accessible.

The workshop, which runs July 22–26, will engage a diverse group of around 20 students—postdoctoral, PhD students, master's, undergraduate and even two high school students are enrolled.

"Working at the intersection of different disciplines is engaging and exciting,” says Alistar, whose own background is in computer science.


During hands-on sessions, workshop participants will learn how to program their personal biochips and develop a bio-protocol for it, Alistar says. The students will also engage in discussions with senior researchers to identify current challenges and future directions of the field.

Those interested in the class can apply and find more information here. A limited number of travel grants are available for doctoral students.

Director of the Living Matter Lab at ATLAS, Alistar pioneers new technologies that empower individuals by making information about their own biology and biome more accessible.