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Biomolecular Computing with DNA

Biology makes things far smaller and more complex than anything produced by human engineering. The biotechnology revolution has given us a powerful set of tools for engineering at the molecular level, in an attempt to harness the capability biology provides. A central question is how molecular systems can process information and provide algorithmic control for other chemical processes, such as energy utilization, motility, or nanofabrication. Research in DNA computation, launched by Leonard Adleman, and in DNA nanotechnology, developed by Nadrian Seeman, provides a case study for understanding how complex computing systems can be built from a simple set of biochemical reactions. This talk will examine how basic DNA reactions correspond to known models of computation. The major focus will be on a single biochemical mechanism, the self-assembly of DNA structures, that is theoretically sufficient for Turing-universal computation. The theory combines Hao Wang's purely mathematical Tiling Problem with the branched DNA constructions of Seeman. Additionally, examples of more sophisticated DNA engineering, such as mechanical switches and motors, and other potential future developments, will be discussed in relation to the prospects of programmable biochemistry.
Type of Seminar:
New Vistas
Prof. Erik WINFREE
Asst. Professor of CS and CNS Caltech, MS 136-93 1200 E. California Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91125
May 21, 2002   17.15

Contact Person:

Prof. M. Morari
No downloadable files available.
Biographical Sketch:
Erik Winfree studies molecular computation and DNA based computers. Inspired by biological mechanisms such as molecular folding, self-assembly, and genetic regulatory circuits, his approach involves both theoretical models of molecular computation and experimental investigation of artificially designed systems of interacting DNA molecules. Winfree received his BS in mathematics and computer science from the University of Chicago, and his PhD in Computation & Neural Systems from Caltech; he is now back at Caltech as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Computation & Neural Systems. In 2000, Winfree was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, like his father before him. Relevant articles for the non-expert by the speaker / about the speakers work