Ellen Jorgensen is at the leading edge of the do-it-yourself biotechnology movement, which brings scientific exploration and understanding to the masses.

Why you should listen

After many years of working as a molecular biologist in the biotechnology industry, Ellen Jorgensen needed a change. So, in 2009, bolstered by her belief in public science literacy, education, and outreach, together with TED Fellow Oliver Medvedik, she founded Genspace, the world’s first government-compliant DIY biotech lab.

Despite criticism that some research should be left to the experts, the Brooklyn-based lab continues to thrive. Amateur and professional scientists conduct award-winning research there on projects as diverse as identifying microbes that live in Earth’s atmosphere and (Jorgensen's own pet project) DNA-barcoding plants from Alaska, to distinguish between species that look alike but may not be closely related evolutionarily.

Video: Ellen Jorgensen takes us along on a trip to Alaska to bar-code plants >>  

Video: At Jorgensen's Genspace lab, artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg produces portraits from the DNA in a single hair >>

Video: At Genspace, Oliver Medvedik shows a cool experiment (you can do at home) with strawberry DNA >>

What others say

"Ellen Jorgensen is helping to democratize biology—making it less the purview of academics and Big Pharma and more an enterprise accessible to anyone who wants a hands-on scientific experience." — Discover Magazine, October 2011

Ellen Jorgensen’s TED talks

Ellen Jorgensen on the TED Blog
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Science

Exclusive video: How to make a cocktail from strawberry DNA

December 20, 2013

DNA. It’s what encodes the genetic material of every living thing. And it also makes a yummy cocktail. This video, which stars TED Fellow synthetic biologist Oliver Medvedik, shows you how to make a delicious adult beverage out of frozen strawberries, pineapple juice and Bacardi 151. Follow the adorably animated instructions, and you’ll be able […]

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Art

A portrait of you from a single hair: The work of Heather Dewey-Hagborg

June 20, 2013

The video “DNA Portrait,” above, is a lovely short documentary shot by TED’s own Kari Mulholland. It features the work of the artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, who spent time collecting hairs shed in public spaces… and then sequencing the DNA therein to print 3D sculptures of what those hairs’ owners might look like. Whoa. The film […]

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Science

Video: Fly to Alaska to “barcode” plants with Ellen Jorgensen

January 15, 2013

What is DNA barcoding, you ask? It’s a precise way of identifying plant species using their DNA (as opposed to external characteristics that might vary from plant to plant). In this video, Ellen Jorgensen — who gave today’s TED Talk “Biohacking, you can do it too”  – heads to a remote region of Alaska to collect […]

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Quotes from Ellen Jorgensen

The press had a tendency to consistently overestimate [biohackers'] capabilities and underestimate our ethics.
Ellen Jorgensen
TEDGlobal 2012 • 955K views Jan 2013
Inspiring, Fascinating
DIY [biotech] people from all over the world … got together last year, and we hammered out a common code of ethics. That's a lot more than conventional science has done.
Ellen Jorgensen
TEDGlobal 2012 • 955K views Jan 2013
Inspiring, Fascinating
[In a DIY bio lab,] you can work on a project and you don't have to justify to anyone that it's going to make a lot of money, that it's going to save mankind, or even that it's feasible.
Ellen Jorgensen
TEDGlobal 2012 • 955K views Jan 2013
Inspiring, Fascinating