Programming circuits and materials with nucleic acids

February 07, 2014, Webb 1100

Elisa Franco

UC Riverside, Mechanical Engineering


Cells have unique abilities to sense, process, and actuate based on environmental stimuli. Their molecular components are constantly running many parallel "programs" that ensure correct growth, motion, reshaping, and repair in response to external inputs. How can modern engineers harness such powerful toolkit of DNA, RNA, and proteins to create biological computers and smart biomaterials? I will describe our efforts in this area, which are centered on the combination of nucleic acids nanotechnology and dynamical systems theory. First, I will summarize our efforts in the design and synthesis of synthetic molecular clocks, essential devices to synchronize events in molecular computers. Second, I will outline our progress in the creation of advanced, dynamic biomaterials, inspired to cytoskeletal filaments in cells, using DNA nanostructures powered by oscillators.

Speaker's Bio

Elisa Franco received her B.S. and M.S. (Laurea Degree) in Power Systems Engineering from the University of Trieste (Italy) in 2002, summa cum laude. In 2007, she received her Ph. D. in Automation from the same institution. In 2011, she completed her second Ph. D. at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, in Control and Dynamical Systems.