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Jason Fontana, M.Sc.

Nov 6, 1990 
 3927 Adams Ln NE #D-805-A Seattle, WA 98105
 United States +12532320009


I am Molecular Engineering grad students, science blogger and enthusiast photographer. 
 I am a fast learner, versatile and efficient. I am a geek. 
 I’m currently working on implementing dynamic CRISPRi regulation in methanotrophic bacteria to optimize biofuel production.


Research Assistant, Zalatan Lab & Carothers Lab, University of Washington — 2015-Present

Research Assistant, Mansy Lab, University of Trento – 2012-2015

I worked on building artificial cells from purified component parts in the laboratory of Sheref S. Mansy. We built an artificial cell that is capable of chemically communicating with E. coli.

Team member, iGEM Trento – 2012

I was a member of the UNITN-TRENTO team at the 2012 iGEM competition. We engineered E. coli to clean statues and monuments from the black crusts caused by air pollution.

Other Work Experience

President, Open Wet Lab; Trento – 2013-2015

I founded the non-profit scientific outreach organization Open Wet Lab. We have an open lab at MUSE - Museum of Science in Trento. We communicate biology to the lay public in a fresh, easy and hands-on fashion.

Contributing author, CheFuturo – 2013-Present

I write about science and technology at, an editorial website focusing on innovation.


Nature Communications (2014) Integrating artificial with natural cells to translate chemical messages that direct E. coli behavior – R Lentini, S Perez Santero, F Chizzolini, D Cecchi, 
 J Fontana, M Marchioretto, C Del Bianco, J L Terrell, A C Spencer, L Martini, M Forlin, M Assfalg, M Dalla Serra, W E Bentley & S S Mansy

Previous efforts to control cellular behavior have largely relied upon various forms of genetic engineering. Once the genetic content of a living cell is modified, the behavior of that cell typically changes as well. However, other methods of cellular control are possible. All cells sense and respond to their environment. Therefore, artificial, non-living cellular mimics could be engineered to activate or repress already existing natural sensory pathways of living cells

through chemical communication. Here we describe the construction of such a system. The artificial cells expand the senses of E. coli by translating a chemical message that E. coli cannot sense on its own to a molecule that activates a natural cellular response. This methodology could open new opportunities in engineering cellular behavior without exploiting genetically modified organisms.

Journal of Biotechnology (2014) Enhanced microbial diversity in the saliva microbiome induced by short-term probiotic intake revealed by 16S rRNA sequencing on the IonTorrent PGM platform — Dassi et al


Engineering artificial cell-like entities to communicate with natural cells — Master thesis, 2014

In artificial life, the lack of a single definition of life can be an issue: it is oftentimes difficult to evaluate the outputs of research. We’re building a cellular version of the Turing test, in which the burden of judging artificial objects shifts to living organisms closer them: bacteria.
 We reconstructed from purified components artificial cell-like entities able to communicate with natural cells. First, we built artificial translators cell-like entities able to translate a foreign signal into one that natural cells understand. Next, we started engineering into cell-like entities the 2-way communication modules required for the cellular Turing test.

Engineering E. coli to reduce sulfate aerobically – Bachelor thesis, 2012

Statues and monuments all over the world are not enjoyed to the extent that they should be because they are covered in a disfiguring black crust, which consists mainly of CaSO4. A practical solution would be if a cheap mechanism was available to continually remove the pollutant molecules that adhere to the surface of statues. To build such a system, we engineered an aerobic sulfur reducing pathway in E. coli to dissolve the disfiguring black crust.

Job-related skills

I have a strong background in laboratory methods and am able to work independently. 
 Design and cloning of genetic constructs (classic, mutagenesis, Gibson Assembly, BioBrick assembly), RT-qPCR, flow cytometry, cell-free transcription-translation, vesicle preparation, isolation, and purification, fluorescence spectrophotometry, recombinant protein expression, bacterial (E. coli, V. harveyi, V. fischeri) culture, V. harveyi and V. fischeri bioluminescence assays.
 I am usually the go-to guy in the lab when it comes to computers. 
 I follow GTD principles for task management, I’m an expert Evernote and iWork user. I have been using LabGuru (an Electronic Lab Notebook tool) and Benchling (a molecular cloning tool) for the past 9 months.


University of Washington (USA), Molecular Engineering — PhD Program, 1st year student (current GPA: 3.85/4.0)
 Relevant classes: Introduction to Synthetic Biology, Laboratory Methods in Synthetic Biology, Molecular Engineering Principles, Current Topics in Molecular Engineering.

University of Trento (Italy), Cellular and Molecular Biotechnology — M. Sc., Oct 22nd, 2014 (Final grade: 110 with honor/110; GPA: 29.57/30, converted to 4.0/4.0)

Relevant classes: Statistical Methods for Experimental Sciences, Macromolecular Imaging and Biophysical Methods, Macromolecular Modeling, High Throughput Methodologies I: Technology, High Throughput Methodologies II: Data Analysis, Macromolecular Biochemistry, Molecular Pharmacology, Molecular Basis of Disease, Gene Therapy, Cell Therapy and Animal Models for Human Diseases, Communication in the Sciences.

Stanford University OpenEdX platform — Writing in the Sciences, 2013

University of Trento (Italy), Biomolecular Science and Technology — B. Sc., Sep 27th, 2012 
 (Final grade: 110 with honor/110; GPA: 28.55/30, converted to 3.93/4.0)

Relevant classes: System’s Biology, Informatics, Math and statistics I, Math and Statistics II, Physics I, Physics II, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Cell biology, Organisms Biology, Developmental Biology, General Microbiology, Law and Ethics in Biology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Microbial and Cellular Biotechnology, Physiology, Human Molecular Genetics and Epigenetics.

Other Skills

Team skills

Research is a team effort. Through the iGEM competition and Research Assistantships I have learned to work with other people and collaborate to overcome obstacles. Through iGEM and being president of Open Wet Lab I have learned to lead and manage teams of highly motivated people.

Organizational skills

Through research and writing for a magazine I have learned to work in deadline-focused work environments. Maintaining an organized and referenceable lab notebook has been instrumental in crafting an organizational method based on GTD techniques.

Communication skills

Thanks to iGEM and Open Wet Lab I had the chance to talk in front of great audiences. I gave talks in Amsterdam, at MIT, at TEDx UniTN, WorldWideRome Open Science and Next Venezia.
 Talks were either in English or Italian.


My second love is photography. I enjoy teaching photography and have been volunteering as an instructor for 2 years. My portfolio is linked in the External Links section. Thanks to photography, I understand imaging and post-processing software.

Computer skills

I am interested in typography, design and web design. 
 I can make websites; code in HTML5 + CSS3 and JavaScript; work with Wordpress and other CMSs; use Photoshop, Illustrator and similar software. 
 I have deep knowledge of Mac OS X and iOS.

Honors and Awards

Top 100 Italian Innovators — Riccardo Luna, Dec 2013

I was selected among the top 100 Italian innovators, scoring the 57th place.

Merit Prize for the Bachelor Degree — University of Trento.

iGEM “Sweet 16” and Gold Medal — iGEM World Championship, Nov 2012

Our iGEM project was selected among the best 16 at the iGEM World Championship at MIT.


As a speaker
 TEDx UniTN — Trento, Apr 2013

World Wide Rome - Open Science — Rome, Apr 2013

Next, la Repubblica delle Idee — Venezia, Jan 2014

Restart Europe — Venezia, Jul 2014

As an organizer

Italy for Science — Trento, June 2013

Italy for Science — Trento, May 2014

BioDays 2014 — Trento, June 2014


Jesse Zalatan — Assistant Professor at University of Washington

James M. Carothers — Assistant Professor at University of Washington

Sheref S. Mansy — Assistant Professor at University of Trento 0039 0461285304

Olivier Jousson — Associate Professor at University of Trento 0039 0461282933

External links



Open Wet Lab

Bachelor Thesis Download Master Thesis (Introduction) Download

Personal Website and Portfolio

Jason Fontana Resume