Dynamic Nucleic Acid Systems lab

"I got an idea, an idea so smart my head would explode if I even began to know what I was talking about... " Family guy

Our group focuses on two broad research areas.

Molecular dynamical systems and controllers

We are interested in design principles underlying complex dynamic behaviors of biologial systems at the scale of molecular networks and indiviual cells. We follow a constructionist approach: we design molecular networks, derive mathematical models to describe what they do, and we build them in a test tube. Our favorite molecules are DNA and RNA, because we understand very well how to program their binding and folding pathways as a function of sequence. We also use a few classes of proteins that are well characterized by biologists. In particular we work on in vitro RNA networks, because they could be converted into molecular computers for cells. We have built molecular circuits that can behave as clocks, switches, and sensors and we are developing methods to build closed loop molecular PID controllers.

Active nucleic acid materials

Biological cells grow, divide, and move thanks to a suite of self-assembling components that actively respond to environmental stimuli. Our goal is to recapitulate the cellular architecture underlying shape control with programmable building blocks: DNA and RNA molecules. We are developing methods to direct assembly of nucleic acid nanostructures at the micron-scale, using a suite of artificial dynamic signal processing devices also made with nucleic acids.

Current funding

NSF CMMI 1266402, NSF CAREER award DMR 1450747, Department of Energy DE-SC0010595, DARPA HR0011-16-C-0134 (UMN subaward)