Team:Wellesley Desyne/Eugenie


Wellesley HCI iGEM Team: Welcome



Eugenie is a multi-touch application for designing biological circuits using the programming language Eugene. The visual language we created for Eugenie allows synthetic biologists to harness the power of Eugene without having to write Eugene code. The application consists of three representations of the circuit: “TreeView,” “FlowView,” and “EugeneView.” The user can search through Clotho and iGEM databases to find the biological parts desired and can drag them to the workspace, graphically create Eugene rules, and view live-updating Eugene code for the circuit. After the user is done specifying a circuit, she or he can then view the search results, which display the possible permutations of a circuit based on a collection of parts. This process is meant to be iterative, so users can go back and add more properties and behavior specifications if they would like to prune the results.


The design process is divided into three main views: TreeView, FlowView, and EugeneView. A user starts by searching for parts from the Part Registry or their Clotho database and bringing them into their worskspace. In the TreeView, users can specify the order and structure of their design. The behavior of parts in the device is specified using the FlowView. Users specify structure and behavior using a visual language that we developed specifically for the application; the language utilizes SBOL symbols, an open-source standard for in silico representation of genetic designs. The EugeneView updates automatically throughout the design process, and users may click on individual parts in order to see the corresponding code highlighted in the EugeneView. Finally, users may view and export their results to a CSV or Pigeon files in the ResultsView.

Create the structure of the circuit in the TreeView.

Define rules between parts in the FlowView.

View live-updating Eugene code in the EugeneView.

Generate and export results in the ResultsView.


We implemented Eugenie using C#, XAML and the Surface SDK 2.0. We also used the MVC framework, Eugene for the creation of synthetic biology circuits, and Pigeon to display the circuits visually.


We had four goals in creating Eugenie:
  • Implementing top-down design
    We utilized the functionality of Eugene, a programming language that is used to implement top-down design of novel genetic circuits—design that begins by specifying devices and then instantiating parts.
  • Enhancing sensemaking
    We implemented sliding panel views, which allow users the option to view multiple sets of information simultaneously or one set at a time, helping users understand the connection between the different types of presentation.
  • Supporting resource integration
    We give users the option to load parts from the parts registry, access parts in a Clotho database, or use a local database.
  • Fostering collaboration
    We used the Microsoft PixelSense, which allows multiple people to use Eugenie simultaneously.


Results showing users' experience with Eugenie.

We conducted user studies of Eugenie with members of the BU and MIT iGEM teams as well as with Wellesley College students; the majority of the 15 participants were biology or other science majors. Our study began with a brief introduction to the Eugene programming language, the visual language we had created, and the Eugenie user interface. Users were first tasked with interpreting genetic devices from our visual language and then translating SBOL representations of genetic devices into our visual language.

We next asked participants to use Eugenie to specify one of the genetic devices they had translated. Post task, participants rated the ease of understanding the visual language and of using the program. We also asked participants for their feedback on how the program could be improved.

The majority of users found it easier to create a device using Eugenie than to draw one by hand. Some participants also remarked that the multiple panels were helpful for understanding the device. Overall, users' response to Eugenie was positive, with many testers believing that Eugenie can become a great tool to help other young synthetic biologists with their research work.


Future Work

Our visual language
  • Supplement part information with additional information from previous iGEM projects and other synthetic biology databases
  • Allow users to access more parts from other synthetic biology databases
  • Expedite the process for synthetic biologists to create genetic circuits
  • Further incorporate the visual language we created into Eugenie's interface
  • Develop a companion web application to enable widespread access to Eugenie