Natalie Kuldell, PhD





(617) 324-0085



Natalie Kuldell graduated Magna Cum Laude from Cornell University with a BA in Chemistry and, after dancing professionally in Boston for a year, pursued her PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology with Prof. Ann Hochschild from Harvard University. After a post-doctoral fellowship with Prof. Steve Buratowski at Harvard Medical School, she joined the faculty at Wellesley College where she taught and developed curriculum in the Department of Biological Sciences. She spent many summers at Harvard Medical School as a visiting scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Fred Winston. In 2003, Natalie came to MIT to help launch laboratory curriculum for the Course 20 undergraduate major. She is also founder and president of the BioBuilder Educational Foundation, a non-profit organization that extends MIT’s teaching approach in Biological Engineering and Synthetic Biology by providing modular curriculum and professional development for high school teachers. Dr. Kuldell spent her sabbatical year (2013-2014) as a visiting scholar with the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement exploring new models for engineering education, including a general education approach to engineering and a companion advanced-placement class in Engineering for high schoolers.

Research and Teaching

Students won’t understand what it means to be a scientist or engineer if they simply memorize and demonstrate what’s already known in those fields. The synthetic biology curriculum that I’ve developed at MIT, which is now also provided through the BioBuilder Educational Foundation, shifts the paradigm by using current scientific experiments. Authenticity sparks interest, while the “hands-on” approach empowers learners, from middle school through college age, to contribute to the global knowledge base.  My curriculum and teacher training programs capitalize on students’ need to know, to explore and to be part of solving real world problems. With a focus on microbial gene expression and on building new expression systems, my curriculum uses molecular, genetic and synthetic biology techniques to teach and to learn. My work reconnects teachers and students with their love of learning, providing them access to ongoing scientific research questions, presenting these questions in teachable form, and creating widespread interest and engagement in STEM fields. 

Selected Publications:

How to Engineer Biology with BioBuilder (expected early 2015) Textbook to be published by O’Reilly Media, Inc.

SENCER BACKGROUNDER on Synthetic Biology (2014)

Research Areas: