inGENEious DNA - the future of data storage?

Course offered by: Dr. Heiner Busch, Dr. Arman Vinck, Prof. Dr. Benedikt Kost
Offering University: Uni Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU)
Course Language: English
Subject Area: Natural Sciences Free of Charge
Average Workload: 15 Hours Free of Charge Enrol
Picture Credits: Heiner Busch

What awaits you in this course?

DNA-molecules store the information necessary to build and sustain living organisms, they are the molecules of heredity and provide the molecular basis for the evolution of species. The molecular structure of DNA and its physicochemical properties are wonderfully suited to accomplish these functions. Insofar DNA is an inGENEious molecule worthwhile to study and understand.

In this series of online exercises "inGENEious DNA" we will highlight some aspects of DNA and its properties which are relevant to our everyday life. In each course we will tell you a fascinating DNA-story and we will provide you with the DNA-basics necessary to understand and discuss this story.

In part one of this series "Can DNA solve our data storage crisis" we will start with a rather technological discussion concerning the intersection between computer technology and molecular biology. To this end we will delve into the basic principles of information storage in both worlds.

What can you learn in this course?

Higher order learning goals:

The participants ...

... realize the wonderful correlation between structure and function of the DNA-molecule.

... know a selection of molecular techniques available to manipulate and analyze DNA.

... are able to research and evaluate opportunities and threads of these techniques.

... understand the role of DNA in the evolution of species.

... understand the necessity of high throughput DNA-sequencing projects.

More detailed Learning objectives:

The participants ...

... are able to explain the basic structural features of DNA.

... understand the function of DNA in inheritance and evolution.

... know the function of DNA as template for protein synthesis.

... know about the molecular techniques to synthesize, manipulate, sequence and analyze DNA, without completely understanding the biochemical and biophysical foundations.

... know about the cellular activities that involve DNA, such as replication and transcription.

... know about the cellular functions that lead to inheritance and mutations.

Learning goals in competencies

The participants ...

... use selected websites and other online resources in order to achieve the above mentioned goals.

... establish a personal learning network of valuable and proven learning resources.


Introduction and Organisation

Welcome and authors

Contents and Learning goals

Learning interface


Data never sleeps

Ad clicks and other 

Data explosion

How much data is that really?

Can we store all the data we generate?

Can we store in DNA?

Storage capacity is limited

Where do we store digital data?

How does Cloud Storage work?

What are hyperscale data centres?

How much energy does a human consume?

How much energy do data centres consume?

From Hard Drives to Flash Drives to DNA Drives

DNA is an inGENEious molecule

DNA, the newest information storage technology,

is also the world's oldest.

What makes you different from everyone else?

Children resemble their parents.

DNA  - Blueprint or Cookbook?

What are basic building blocks of living things?

DNA is in every living cell

How large (or small) are cells? 

Where do you find DNA in your cells? 

How do you fit two metres of DNA in a tiny cell?

What does DNA look like? 

DNA codes for proteins

What are genes?

How are genes converted into proteins? 

What are proteins for?

Storing digital data in DNA

DNA keeps our culture alive.

How do computers work?

Bits and Bytes

A short history of DNA-based data storage

Bits to DNA and vice versa

Workflow in DNA data storage

Encoding in DNA

Writing DNA commercially

Storage and retrieval of DNA

Reading DNA fast

Will DNA really replace silicon in data storage?

Course offered by

The work on this online module on the wonders of the DNA molecule was carried out in the lab of Prof. Dr. Benedikt Kost, chair of the "Cell Biology Division" of the "Department of Biology" at the "Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg".

Further authors

Arman Vinck studied Biology at the University of Groningen, University of Amsterdam and King's College London. His research was mainly focused on protein secretion mechanisms in the filamentous fungus, Aspergillus niger. After obtaining his teaching degree he worked as a secondary teacher at an international school in the Heidelberg region and lecturer at the Ansbach University of Applied Sciences and Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg. Currently he works as a learning designer at the University of Applied Sciences in Zwolle, The Netherlands. 

Heiner Busch studied Biology in Würzburg, SUNY at Stony Brook, Göttingen and Hannover. His research interest was in the biophysics of plant ion channels. He worked for 10 years in systems analysis and software specification in life science knowledge management in Berlin. He participated as author and scientific adviser in scientific movies and documentaries. He is now lecturer at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg.

Target group

This series of exercises is suited for everyone how is interested in the wonders of the DNA-molecule. You need to know some chemistry and some physics at low levels. For example, you need to understand, that the world is made up of atoms which are linked together to form molecules, which can be composed of billions of atoms, but who are still extremely small and can not easily be identified under a microscope.

You may be finished with high-school and you might be thinking about studying a major in the life sciences, in that case you will in these courses hopefully find many reasons to do so. Or you may have come across one of our DNA-stories and want to understand the background. Or you are already studying a topic in the life sciences and know many details about the inner workings of the DNA-molecule. In this case these courses might give you a glance at the crossroads of disciplines and an overview of the contexts in which your knowledge about DNA is applicable.

If you are a lecturer in the life sciences you might want to refer your students to our DNA-Stories in order to put your courses on DNA into perspective and provide some food for thought for subsequent discussions in the classroom or seminar. Thus exploiting these courses in a "flipped classroom" setting.

Confirmation of participation

A certificate of participation is not yet available. You may participate in this course just for fun.


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DNA, molecular biology, data storage devices, cell biology