Chemistry and microbiology are the two foundations for truly understanding DIYbio and synthetic biology. Yes, there are others components, and yes you can follow a step-by-step guides of an experiment and get some results. But to fully understand what’s going on enough to do you own experiments, you’re going to need to know the basics. Check out the resources below to learn biology and microbiology online, most of which are video courses, but some of which are free biology textbooks. (Also, check out resources to learn chemistry online).
Advanced Stuff by MIT OpenCourseWare (Free):
You can jump straight to the advanced biochemistry with some MIT Opencourseware. They have 88 undergraduate classes and 16 graduate level classes available. That’s the good news. The bad news is that very few of them have videos of class lectures and lots of the reading material that you would need to read for the class is behind a paywall that you can’t get past without being enrolled in a university or ponying up some money for an issue. If you’re like me and a few notes on a class is not enough, jump straight to the audio/video lectures for bioengineering and biology.
Khan Academy (Free):
Back to the Khan Academy. I hope they expand their selection here, because as of right now they only have a biology course. I’m including it because, once again, many colleges require you to take biology before you can jump into microbiology. Biology encompasses a much larger scope, including the ecosystem level down to the organ level before we get to the microscopic level of cells and enzymes, but I would argue that it is also an important foundation. If you’re looking to do some real biohacking, you better have a concept of how it could affect an organism at the system level or many organisms at the ecosystem level.
Biology (1st year of college level)
Coursera (Free and Paid Options to Learn Biology and Microbiology Online):
Coursera’s options to learn biology and microbiology online aren’t quite as impressive, but then again, biology covers a lot of ground. From viruses to systems biology, to the microbiome. The only discouraging thing here is that there wasn’t actually a good introductory microbiology course. They definitely did have very in-depth stuff, like Virology I or Programmed Cell Death, but these are small slivers of microbioloby and probably would require microbiology as a pre-requisite (though I haven’t checked, so don’t take my word for it).
- Gut Check: Exploring Your Microbiome
- Drug Discovery, Development & Commercialization (wth Williams S. Ettouati & Joseph D. Ma)
- Nanotechnology and Nanosensors (with Hossam Haick)
- Epidemics – The Dynamics of Infectious diseases (with lots of contributing professors)
- Virology I: How Viruses Work (from Columbia University)
- Useful Genetics Part 1
- Programmed Cell Death (with Barbara Conradt)
- Bioinformatics: Introduction and Methods (from Peking University)
- Bioinformatics: Life Sciences on Your computer (with Bob Lessick)
- Bioinformatics Methods I (from University of Toronto)
- Mathematical Biostatistics Boot Camp 1 (from Johns Hopkins University)
Many don’t know this, but the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in conjunction with the National Institute of Health (NIH), have made available a lot of college level textbooks for free. All of these books can be accessed and read over the internet.
While the internal search on this baby is not great, I was able to find a lot of books related to Biology, microbiology, molecular biology, etc. There is a similar section on our Learn Chemistry page, so be sure to check that out too. Also, a big caveat- you’ll notice that many of these textbooks are ten years old or older. I think this is okay for intro texts, though it surely wouldn’t cut it for more advanced texts. Just something to keep in mind.
- Molecular Biology of the Cell on NCBI’s site
- Molecular Biology of the Cell, 2002, 4th ed. by Alberts, Johnson, Lewis, Raff, Roberts, Walter
- Molecular Cell Biology, 2000, 4th ed. by Lodish, Berk, Zipursky, Matsudaira, Baltimore, Darnell
- This website also has several books in each category: Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Computational Biology, Genetics, Life Sciences, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and Viruses, among others, so be sure to do some searching yourself.
Here are a few more books that aren’t really in either category. At some point, when I make a genetics page, I’ll shuffle them over there.