NG Microsystems Seminar: Rebecca Schulman, "Soft materials controlled by (bio)molecular circuits"
Thursday, March 8, 2018
1146 AV Williams Building
Soft materials controlled by (bio)molecular circuits
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Computer Science
Johns Hopkins University
Biological cells achieve remarkable responsiveness using a complex network of chemical reactions in which different components have different roles: receptors act as molecular sensors and signal transduction cascades and gene networks process this information and direct the response of structural molecules that serve as actuators. These molecular sensors, signal transducers and actuators act in solution and are each embedded inside cells and tissues.
In this talk I'll describe our efforts to build synthetic materials inspired by this form of organization in which the signal transduction components, or circuits, are composed primarily of nucleic acids that in turn actuate nucleic acid components of the materials. Materials with this organization could recapitulate some of the most powerful features of biological systems within structures that are straightforward to engineer and could perform under conditions prohibitive for living systems. I'll describe how they have the potential to act as autonomous microbots that can use chemical energy and instructions to perform tasks, to have features across size scales that can grow and heal when damaged or to intelligently manage chemical processes and material features.
To understand the basic design principles behind these material systems, we are exploring multiple types of materials, including self-assembled nanostructures, gels and hybrids, and different types of DNA circuits that control these materials. We have discovered that to build these systems we have to design both materials and circuits with this coupling in mind. I will also describe how we have thought about the development of material systems in the academic research environment by harnessing teams of undergraduates that collectively build and optimize different system components.
Rebecca Schulman is an assistant professor in the Departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Computer Science (Schulman Lab) at The Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on the development of intelligent and adaptive biomolecular materials and nanostructures. Dr. Schulman joined JHU after working as a Miller Research Fellow in physics at UC Berkeley. She received undergraduate degrees in mathematics and computer science from MIT and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. Recent awards include a DARPA Young Investigator Award, NSF Career Award, Turing Scholar Award and a DOE Early Career Award. Her research pushes the boundaries of interdisciplinary inquiry by integrating ideas from a broad range of disciplines, including theoretical computer science, synthetic chemistry, materials science, physics and engineering in addressing fundamental problems in materials and biomolecular device design.