The research in our lab generally spans the boundary between experimental and theoretical molecular systems biology. We are particularly interested in the dynamics of gene regulation – from small-scale interactions such as transcription and translation, to the large-scale dynamics of gene regulatory networks. We use a hybrid experimental and computational approach to uncover the underlying design principles governing native gene networks and to use these concepts to design novel synthetic circuits.

The ultimate goal of synthetic biology is the creation of practical, engineered genetic circuits for medical and industrial applications. Critical to this goal is the elucidation of the fundamental mechanisms that govern gene regulation at all levels. To this end, our work focuses on the kinetic properties of both synthetic networks, such as gene oscillators, and native regulatory networks, such as the galactose utilization pathway inĀ S. cerevisiae.

Currently, our lab uses both bacteria and yeast as model organisms to study genetic signaling networks, which are central to cellular decision-making processes. By detecting and interpreting dynamic cues, these networks enable cells to adapt to their surroundings in a context-dependent manner. We want to know: 1) how information is relayed from one genetic module to the next; 2) how network architecture determines the fidelity of the signal; and 3) how problems arising from network deficiencies or deleterious mutations might be alleviated.

The work in our lab is highly interdisciplinary, combining aspects of synthetic biology, microfluidic engineering, and theoretical physics. Synthetic biology is used to create novel gene circuits as well as perturb naturally occurring gene networks. These networks are then examined at the single-cell level with the aid of microfluidic devices that allow for the precise control over environmental conditions. Finally, mathematical models are used to understand the observed phenomenon and aid in the design of future synthetic gene networks.