Howard Salis

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.

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Contact Information

Howard Salis, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Chemical Engineering



The Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering, established in 1948, is recognized as one of the largest and most influential chemical engineering departments in the nation.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry.

Department of Chemical Engineering

119 Greenberg Complex

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2574