Synthetic Biology, Genetic Programming
The Salis research lab is a new synthetic biology lab at Penn State. We develop biophysical models and optimization methods to rationally predict and control the behavior of synthetic biological organisms. Statistical mechanics, kinetics, and thermodynamics are combined to formulate models of gene expression and their predictive accuracies are tested through systematic, quantitative experimentation on industrially useful or medically relevant bacteria and eukaryotes.
Stochastic optimization methods are employed to identify genetic sequences that yield a targeted cellular behavior, such as maximizing the productivity of a synthetic metabolic pathway, the potency of a biologic therapeutic, or the yield of a recombinant protein. We are also creating a genetic compiler that converts a high-level functional specification (a genetic programming language) into a specific DNA sequence. More information is available on the Salis Lab website.
Students will learn how to computationally design and experimentally manipulate genetic systems, using genetic engineering techniques (e.g., PCR, gel electrophoresis, genetic cloning, chew back-anneal-ligation). Students will have the opportunity to formulate and test biophysical models of gene expression and publish these results in a peer-reviewed journal. Students will also have the opportunity to program dynamic web interfaces to biophysical models, enabling interactive access to the global synthetic biology community.