Synthetic biology is a new area of biological research that combines science and engineering in order to design and build (”synthesize”) novel biological functions and systems.
Biology (from Greek βιολογία – βίος, bios, “life”; -λογία, -logia, study of) is the science of studying living organisms. Prior to the nineteenth century, biology came under the general study of all natural objects called natural history.
The term biology was first coined by Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck. It is now a standard subject of instruction at schools and universities around the world, and over a million papers are published annually in a wide array of biology and medicine journals.
Biology examines the structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution and classification of all living things. Five unifying principles form the foundation of modern biology: cell theory, evolution, gene theory, energy, and homeostasis.
Traditionally, the specialized disciplines of biology are grouped by the type of organism being studied: botany, the study of plants; zoology, the study of animals; and microbiology, the study of microorganisms.
These fields are further divided based on the scale at which organisms are studied and the methods used to study them: biochemistry examines the fundamental chemistry of life, molecular biology studies the complex interactions of systems of biological molecules, cellular biology examines the basic building block of all life, the cell; physiology examines the physical and chemical functions of the tissues and organ systems of an organism; and ecology examines how various organisms interrelate with their environment.
Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) refers in its broadest sense to any systematic knowledge-base or prescriptive practice that is capable of resulting in a prediction or predictable type of outcome. In this sense, science may refer to a highly skilled technique or practice.
In its more restricted contemporary sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on scientific method, and to the organized body of knowledge gained through such research. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word. Science as discussed in this article is sometimes called experimental science to differentiate it from applied science—the application of scientific research to specific human needs—although the two are interconnected.
Science is a continuing effort to discover and increase human knowledge and understanding through disciplined research. Using controlled methods, scientists collect observable evidence of natural or social phenomena, record measurable data relating to the observations, and analyze this information to construct theoretical explanations of how things work. The methods of scientific research include the generation of hypotheses about how phenomena work, and experimentation that tests these hypotheses under controlled conditions. Scientists are also expected to publish their information so other scientists can do similar experiments to double-check their conclusions. The results of this process enable better understanding of past events, and better ability to predict future events of the same kind as those that have been tested.
Engineering is the science, discipline, art and profession of acquiring and applying technical, scientific and mathematical knowledge to design and implement materials, structures, machines, devices, systems, and processes that safely realize a desired objective or inventions.
The American Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (ECPD, the predecessor of ABET) has defined engineering as follows:
“[T]he creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.”
One who practices engineering is called an engineer, and those licensed to do so may have more formal designations such as Professional Engineer, Chartered Engineer, Incorporated Engineer, or European Engineer. The broad discipline of engineering encompasses a range of more specialized subdisciplines, each with a more specific emphasis on certain fields of application and particular areas of technology.
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