Silver: Synthetic Biology
Biology offers an enormous number of opportunities for novel functions. Cells are capable of remarkable things including exquisite sensing of molecules, rapid signaling, implementation of modularity, and rapid duplication. Synthetic biology focuses on design and construction of synthetic genomes and programmed cells through cycles of computer modeling, assembly, and testing (not necessarily in that order). The goal of synthetic biology is to both enhance our understanding of biological systems and to develop tools for constructing organisms with defined functions and outputs. In the long term, we hope to develop a set of parts and principles for building eukaryotic cells that might act as novel sensors, memory cells, biocomputers or energy producers. We also hope to use standardized parts to build novel proteins that could have therapeutic value.
Current projects focus on using the added complexity of eukaryotes (both yeast and mammalian cells) in our designs and include the construction of standardized parts for designer proteins with well-defined functions that can also be used to screen for novel cell functions and have therapeutic value, a cellular oscillator based on nuclear/cytoplasmic localization that could lead to pulsatile drug delivery, a lifespan counter for analyzing cellular aging, a cell-based memory device and manipulation of metabolic pathways to produce novel molecules leading to bioenergy. These experiments use a combination of theoretical and experimental approaches and are well-suited for those with experience in biology as well as engineering and other associated fields.