Tue, Feb 01, 2011 @ 03:30 PM - 05:00 PM
Thomas Lord Department of Computer Science
Conferences, Lectures, & Seminars
Speaker: Dr. Rebecca Schulman, Miller Research Fellow, UC Berkeley
Talk Title: What makes a bunch of molecules a cell: The power of chemical reaction networks
Abstract: While we can write programs that emulate our capacity for chess playing or predict our tastes, many tasks that both humans and lower organisms are capable of such as image recognition or directed motion have been surprisingly difficult to reverse engineer. What these processes share is the entwinement of a complex organism with a complex physical environment.
While higher organisms are complex, single cells are much less so.
And even single cells can chase targets, change shape on cue, and self-replicate. How can a cell, a simple group of molecules, orchestrate these behaviors? We can investigate the power of molecular interactions by trying to recreate the computations they perform and the implementation of the computations using synthetic DNA. DNA's chemistry and structure are well-understood, and we can engineer specific interactions between DNA molecules by designing their sequences. We can therefore focus on the power of systems of reactions rather than on the process of individual ones. I'll show how we can use DNA to replicate sequences written in an alphabet of DNA blocks, or tiles, and program molecules to execute a "search and capture" process that forms a tether between two points of unknown location. From these examples we learn that molecular reaction networks are surprisingly powerful: a small set of molecules can both compute and learn arbitrarily complex patterns, and even though molecular interactions are stochastic and unreliable, systems of molecules can robustly perform complex behaviors.
Biography: Rebecca Schulman received undergraduate degrees in mathematics and computer science at MIT. She then spent several years working on search and natural language technology in Silicon Valley before receiving a PhD in the "Computation and Neural Systems" option at the California Institute of Technology, where she worked with Erik Winfree. Dr. Schulman is currently a Miller Research Fellow at UC Berkeley in Jan Liphardt's group.
Host: Profs. Len Adleman, Shang-Hua Teng
Location: Seaver Science Library (SSL) - 150
Audiences: Everyone Is Invited
Contact: Kanak Agrawal