Christina Agapakis biology & design


Ginkgo Bioworks 2015-present

As creative director, I work with our team and our partners to understand and communicate the future potential of biotechnologies.


PhD, Biological and Biomedical Sciences 2011
Harvard University

Advisor: Pamela Silver
Thesis: “Biological Design Principles for Synthetic Biology” [ pdf ]

BS, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology 2006
Yale University

Magna Cum Laude, with distinction in major


Hirsch Lab 2012-2014

Postdoctoral Researcher, UCLA
Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology

Art | Science Center 2012-2013

Fellow, UCLA Department of Design | Media Arts

Synthetic Aesthetics Fall 2010

A project bringing together synthetic biologists, designers,
artists, and social scientists to explore collaborations
between synthetic biology, art, and design.

Silver Lab 2007-2011

Graduate Researcher, Harvard Medical School
Department of Systems Biology


Art Center College of Design 2013-2015

Department of Humanities & Sciences
Visiting Instructor, "Bioissues," Spring 2015

Department of Media Design Practices
Adjunct Thesis Advisor, 2014-2015

Visiting Instructor, co-taught with Ben Hooker
Bacterial Cultures: Design for the Microscale” Spring and Fall 2014
Against Nature: Biotechnology and Design” Spring 2013

UCLA iGEM Summer 2013

Organized and mentored UCLA's first iGEM team.

SciArt NanoLab Summer 2012

Instructor, UCLA High School Summer Program

UCLA Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Fall 2011

Lecturer, “Molecular Biotechnology for Engineers”
Co-taught with James Liao

Harvard iGEM Summer 2008, 2010

Teaching assistant for the Harvard team competing in the International
Genetically Engineered Machines Competition in 2008 and 2010.

Science In The News 2008-2010

Lecturer for Harvard Medical School science outreach lecture series.
Lectures on food, fuels, and the origin of life.

MIT High School Studies Program Spring 2010

Instructor, “Synthetic Biology”
Selected course materials are available online.


Original Research

De Meyer SE, Briscoe L, Martinez-Hidalgo P, Agapakis C, Estrada de Los Santos P, Seshadri R, Reeve W, Weinstock G, O'Hara G, Howieson J, Hirsch AM. “Symbiotic Burkholderia species show diverse arrangements of nif/fix and nod genes, and lack typical high affinity cytochrome cbb3 oxidase genes.” Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions, 2016.

Angus AA, Agapakis CM, Fong S, Yerrapragada S, Estrada-de los Santos P, Yang P, Song N, Kano S, Caballero-Mellado J, de Faria SM, Dakora FD, Weinstock G, and Hirsch AM. "Plant-Associated Symbiotic Burkholderia Species Lack Hallmark Strategies Required in Mammalian Pathogenesis." PLOS ONE, 2014, 9(1), e83779.

Kaplan D, Maymon M, Agapakis CM, Lee A, Wang A, Prigge BA, Volkogon M, and Hirsch AM. “A Survey of the Microbial Community in the Rhizosphere of Two Dominant Shrubs of the Negev Desert Highlands, Zygophyllum dumosum Boiss. and Atriplex halimus, Using Cultivation-Dependent and -Independent Methods.” American Journal of Botany. 2013, 100(9).

Boyle PM, Burrill DR, Inniss MC, Agapakis CM, Deardon A, DeWerd JG, Gedeon MA, Quinn JY, Paull ML, Raman AM, Theilmann MR, Wang L, Winn JC, Medvedik O, Schellenberg K, Haynes KA, Viel A, Brenner TJ, Church GM, Shah JV, and Silver PA. "A BioBrick Compatible Strategy for Genetic Modification of Plants." Journal of Biological Engineering, 2012, 6:8.

Agapakis CM, Niederholtmeyer H, Noche RR, Lieberman TD, Megason SG, Way JC, and Silver PA. Towards a Synthetic Chloroplast. PLoS ONE, 2011, 6(4): e18877.

Barstow B, Agapakis CM, Boyle PM, Grandl G, Silver PA, and Wintermute EH. "A synthetic system links FeFe-hydrogenases to essential E. coli sulfur metabolism." Journal of Biological Engineering, 2011, 5:7.

Agapakis CM, Ducat DC, Boyle PM, Wintermute EH, Way JC, and Silver PA. Insulation of a Synthetic Hydrogen Metabolism Circuit in Bacteria. Journal of Biological Engineering, 2010, 4:3.
        *JBE most highly accessed article of 2010

Florez JC, Sjögren M, Agapakis CM, Burtt NP, Almgren P, Lindblad U, Berglund G, Tuomi T, Gaudet D, Daly MJ, Ardlie KG, Hirschhorn JN, Altshuler D, Groop L. Association testing of common variants in the insulin receptor substrate-1 gene (1RS1) with type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia. 2007, 50(6): 1209-17.

Hines J, Roy M, Cheng H, Agapakis CM, Taylor R, Crews CM. Myriaporone ¾ structure- activity relationship studies define a pharmacophore targeting eukaryotic protein synthesis. Molecular BioSystems. 2006, 2: 371-9.

Florez JC, Wiltshire S, Agapakis CM, Burtt NP, de Bakker PIW, Almgren P, Boström KB, Tuomi T, Gaudet D, Daly MJ, Hirschhorn JN, McCarthy MI, Altshuler D, Groop L. High-density haplotype structure and association testing of the insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE) gene with type 2 diabetes in 4,206 people. Diabetes. 2006, 55(1): 128-35.

Florez JC, Agapakis CM, Burtt NP, Sun M, Almgren P, Rastam L, Tuomi T, Gaudet D, Hudson TJ, Daly MJ, Ardlie KG, Hirschhorn JN, Groop L, Altshuler D. Association Testing of the Protein Tyrosine Phosphatease IB Gene (PTPN1) With Type 2 Diabetes in 7,883 People. Diabetes. 2005, 54(6): 1884-9.

Videlock EJ, Chung VK, Hall JM, Hines J, Agapakis CM, Austin DJ. Identification of a Molecular Recognition Role for the Activation Loop Phosphotyroside of the Src Tyrosine Kinase. Journal of the American Chemical Society. 2005, 127(6): 1600-1.

Reviews and Viewpoints

Agapakis CM and McDonnell K. "Formulating Synthetics the Microbial Way." Perfumer and Flavorist, June 2017: 42-49.

Agapakis CM, McDonnell K, and Kakoyiannis J. "Moving Toward Microbes: Bio-engineering a New Cosmetic Reality." Cosmetics and Toiletries, February 2017.

Agapakis CM. "Biological Scent Design." Perfumer and Flavorist, June 2016.

Agapakis CM. "Designing Synthetic Biology." ACS Synthetic Biology, 2013, DOI: 10.1021/sb4001068.

Agapakis CM and Tolaas S. "Smelling in Multiple Dimensions." Current Opinion in Chemical Biology (special issue on Aesthetics), 2012, 16(5-6): 569-575.

Agapakis CM, Boyle PM, and Silver PA. "Natural Strategies for the Spatial Optimization of Metabolism in Synthetic Biology." Nature Chemical Biology, 2012, 8(6): 527-535.

Agapakis CM and Silver PA. Modular Electron Transfer Circuits for Synthetic Biology: Insulation of an Engineered Biohydrogen Pathway. Bioengineered Bugs, 2010, 1:6.

Agapakis CM and Silver PA. Synthetic Biology: Exploring and Exploiting Biological Modularity Through the Design of Novel Biological Networks. Molecular BioSystems, 2009, 5: 704-13.

Book Chapters

Walker, R., Agapakis CM, Watkin E, and Hirsch AM. (2015) Symbiotic nitrogen fixation in legumes: perspectives on the diversity and evolution of nodulation by Rhizobium and Burkholderia species. In: Biological Nitrogen Fixation, Volume 2. F.J. deBrujjn, (ed.). John Wiley & Sons.

Agapakis CM and Tolaas S. (2014) The Inside-Out Body. In A. D. Ginsberg, J. Calvert, P. Schyfter, A. Elfick, and D. Endy (Eds.), Synthetic Aesthetics: Investigating Synthetic Biology's Designs on Nature (pp. 255-266). The MIT Press.

Popular Writing

For a list and links to my writing in popular outlets, click here.


Fast Company 100 Most Creative People in Business 2016

University of California Institute for Research in the Arts 2013

Implementation Grant

Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30: Science and Healthcare 2012 and 2013

L'Oreal USA Fellowship for Women in Science 2012

UdK Award for Interdisciplinary Art and Science 2012

With Sissel Tolaas

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship 2008-2011

Inducted into ΦΒΚ, Yale Chapter 2006

Yale-HHMI Future Scientists Fellowship 2005

Yale College Mellon Undergraduate Research Grant 2004

Massachusetts Biotechnology Council Scholar 2002

National Merit Scholarship 2002

Art Exhibitions

I've collaborated with artists to explore the cultural and emotional aspects of biotechnology. For more information about these projects, click here.

Feminist Climate Change (September 2017) Group Show, Ars Electronica Festival

Art’s Work in the Age of Biotechnology: Shaping Our Genetic Futures (April 2017) Exhibition + Workshop, North Carolina State University

The Long-Lasting Intimacy of Strangers (May 2016) Group Show, The Luckman Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

Opening (August 2014) Group Show with Amisha Gadani, Rita Blaik, and Megan Daalder at the Monte Vista Projects Gallery.

Dirt (May 2014) UCLA Art | Science Gallery, with Ellie Harmon.

Synthetic Aesthetics Friday Late (April 25, 2014) Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Stripped (February - March 2014) Sam Francis Gallery, Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences.

Grow Your Own (October 2013 - January 2014) Science Gallery Dublin, featuring "Selfmade".

Exposure (August 2013) Work in progress exhibition of microbial art, with Su Hyun Kim, UCLA Experimental Digital Arts Gallery.

Bacterial Encounters (May 2013) Solo Exhibition, UCLA Art|Science Gallery.

Workshops, organization, and service

Member of iGEM Diversity Committee (2016-Present)

Member of Science and Technology Advisory Council, Science Discovery Museums, Acton, MA (2015-present)

Co-chair, iGEM Art & Design Track (2014 & 2015)

PopTech Science Fellow (October 2013)

Participant, Synthetic Biology Leadership Accelerator Program (October 2012)

Peer reviewer for PLOS ONE, ACS Synthetic Biology, Sensors, IET Systems Biology, Bioengineered Bugs, PeerJ

updated January 2018