The Sriram Lab's research is focused on two related areas: metabolic engineering and systems biology. Metabolic engineering is the rational modification of organisms for improvement of their cellular properties. 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. Both these are interdisciplinary fields with immense potential for chemical engineers to uniquely apply their expertise as well as very rapidly growing research areas.
We analyze and engineer 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. We combine experimental techniques such as isotope labeling, two-dimensional (2-D) NMR, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), DNA microarray analysis and quantitative RT-PCR (qPCR) with several computational techniques for metabolic flux/pathway analysis and deduction of gene regulatory networks.
Studying plants in this way is expected to have significant impact on today's economy because plants are the primary sources of food, biofuels and several 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.