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Revision as of 17:03, 7 August 2009
Dr. Sriram's research is in two related areas: systems biology and metabolic engineering. Systems biology is the holistic, quantitative analysis of large-scale biological data sets toward improved understanding, prediction, and control of how a cell or organism behaves. Metabolic engineering is the rational modification of organisms for improvement of their cellular properties. These are interdisciplinary fields with immense potential for chemical engineers to uniquely apply their expertise, and also very rapidly growing research areas.
Dr. Sriram focuses on analyzing and engineering metabolic and gene regulatory pathways of plants and mammalian cells. Metabolic pathways are "traffic maps" of carbon and other materials within cells, and gene regulatory pathways are networks showing how this traffic is controlled by the cell. Such analysis provides insights into bottlenecks existing in the cell, and how these can be improved by engineering the pathways. Dr. Sriram's research utilizes experimental techniques such as stable isotope labeling, NMR, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, cDNA microarray analysis, and several computational techniques for metabolic flux/pathway analysis and deduction of gene regulatory networks.
Studying plants in this way is highly important in today's economy because plants are sources of food, biofuel, and specialty chemicals such as pharmaceuticals. Mammalian tissue cultures provide a means to understand human genetic diseases in greater detail, especially how biological networks are perturbed due to the lack of a gene or genes.