Abstract: Lead by our increasing capability to synthesize and insert desired genetic information into the living cells, synthetic biology has become a booming discipline with great promise of combining research excellence with the ability of businesses to develop novel products to drive economic growth. However, while we are currently efficiently assembling artificial circuits and pushing the capabilities of synthesizing DNA up to chromosome scale, one of the key limitations of successfully harnessing cellular signal processing and manufacturing capabilities is our lack of understanding, and thus control, over the cross-talk between the engineered circuits and the cellular chassis hosting them. Not only can the growth rates and cellular physiology of the chassis, in response to changes in the environment, lead to cross-talk with the synthetic circuits, but the synthetic circuits can themselves change the host cell physiology and growth.
In this talk I will give an overview of developments within synthetic biology that are leading to bigger and bigger number of engineers and physicists working in the field. I will also talk about the work done in my group that is aiming to measure, on a single cell level, components of cellular physiology with the aim of identifying fundamental laws that keep the living bacteria cells in a steady state outside of the thermodynamic equilibrium, with a given amount of free energy available.
My group is composed of physicists, engineers, mathematicians, biologists and biotechnologists, and I will cover in my talk the tools we use to answer the questions we are interested in, including: image analysis with interests in machine learning, mathematical modeling, customized designed of optical microscopes and optical trapping techniques, microfluidics devices and PDMS chip manufacturing as well as, and increasingly more so, 3D printing with circuit designs for small, inexpensive robot solutions to aid our research. These efforts are made easier and easier with the use of Raspberry Pis, Arduinos and Lego Mindstorms Robots and bricks.
Biography: Teuta Pilizota studied undergraduate level physics at University of Zagreb, Department of Physics (Croatia) and obtained her PhD in biological physics from University of Oxford, Department of Physics (UK). During her PhD (in collaboration with Dr. Richard Berry and Prof. Judy Armitage) she developed and used an optical trap optimized for single molecule studies of two rotary molecular motors, bacterial flagellar motor and F1Fo-ATPase. For her post-doctoral training she moved to Princeton University (USA), where her research focus moved to single cell studies of bacterial osmoregulatory network (in collaboration with Prof. Joshua Shaevitz). Teuta joined University of Edinburgh (UK) as a Chancellor’s Fellow in January 2013. Her group’s research focuses on gaining control and utilizing osmotically induced modulations. More recently, the group is focusing on dynamics of free energy flows in bacterial cell, in particular free energy maintenance strategies during exposure to various forms of stresses.