Just heard another talk by Drew Endy about Synthetic Biology and his attempts to make the field work more like Engineering than Biology. Basically, what he is trying to do is to make biological parts (e.g., Biobricks) at the DNA level that would work like circuitry board parts do for making computer chips and related devices. As they get more biological parts, more people will be able to treat synthetic biology in an abstract way - that is they will not need to know per se how the biological parts work, just that they have particular properties.
My favorite part of the field of Synthetic Biology is IGEM, the The international Genetically Engineered Machine competition. Students compete to make cools things from their biological parts. Among the more interesting items that have been made is a bacterallawnthat work as a camera.
In general, I like synthetic biology and the potential it has to produce major benefits for the world, although I wish some of the practitioners were less flippant about the potential risks in the field. And, this minor blog would not be complete without the self interest. THe UC Davis Genome Center has just announced a new faculty position in this area (specifically in cmputational and experimental approaches to network and synthetic biology). So if you are in this field and want to join a great collection of faculty working in diverse areas of genomics, please apply.
Job at Davis