Day 2 – Cells as computers

Written by: Karmella Haynes.

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Today’s invited speaker, Eric Klavins, is a computer engineer turned bio-engineer. He believes that while computer science is much more feasible, biological systems, which are harder to program, present a much more attractive challenge. He summarized some synthetic systems that successfully behaved like mechanical systems. He also walked the audience through a look at how natural biological networks exhibit computational behavior. In spite of the compact size and tape-like nature of DNA, Eric argued that multi-cellular systems, rather than DNA, are the best system for implementing Turing computation.

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Course instructor Jeff Tabor introduced us to the projects in his lab at Rice University, where his team is controlling synthetic circuits inside bacteria with dynamic light. He brought his awesome cell culture illumination system, which looks something like a disco for E. coli, to CSHL so that our students could perform their own opto genetics experiments.

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