Programming circuits and materials with nucleic acids

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Thursday, February 12, 2015 - 4:30pm

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Cells have unique abilities to sense, compute, and respond to environmental stimuli. Physical responses such as growth, motion and repair depend on the assembly of molecular building blocks directed by many parallel molecular "programs". This architecture yields materials - such as the cytoskeleton - capable of very sophisticated behaviors, however cellular components are too complex to be embedded in a synthetic material. Mimicking the organization of cellular materials, our objective is to harness the powerful toolkit of DNA, RNA, and proteins to create programmable, active biological materials driven by molecular circuits. Our research efforts in this area combine nucleic acids nanotechnology and dynamical systems theory. In this talk, I will first summarize our work on artificial molecular clocks, essential devices to synchronize events and fuel autonomous behaviors. Second, I will outline our progress in the creation of dynamic biomaterials where we drive the reconfiguration of DNA nanostructures using DNA dynamic circuits. Our responsive DNA materials may be used as adaptive scaffolds for organic and inorganic nanoparticles, with potential applications in nanomedicine and biosensing.

BiographyElisa Franco is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at UC Riverside. She received a Ph.D. in control and dynamical systems from Caltech, and a Ph.D. in automation and a M.S. in power systems engineering  from the University of Trieste, Italy. Her research interests are in the areas of biological feedback networks and DNA nanotechnology. She received a Hellman fellowship and a UC Regents fellowship.