March 21, 2023

Programming Biology - A Matter of Life and Death

Event Details

Date & Time

Tuesday, Mar 21, 2023 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM




Cataldo Hall Globe Room


Arnold Distinguished Professor, Dr. Melody Alsaker


Event Type & Tags

  • Academics
  • Careers Outcomes

About This Event

Dr. Eric Klavins, Professor and Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Washington, will talk on Tues. 3/21 at 5 PM in the Globe Room of Cataldo Hall. A multi-disciplinary panel discussion will follow at 6 PM.  This event is hosted by the Arnold Distinguished Professor, Dr. Melody Alsaker.

The behavior of a living cell is determined by its DNA, much like the behavior of a computer is determined by its software. How good is this analogy? Do cells have memory, program variables, and input/output signals? Can you write if-then statements and for loops with DNA, RNA, and protein? Should we one day expect programming cells to be as straightforward as programming computers? This talk will explore the similarities and differences between living cells and computers and introduce the exciting field of synthetic biology whose practitioners have made great strides in learning to program biology. Lab experiments with microbes have repurposed growth, death, mating, immune systems, and microbial communities to build entirely new behaviors. The talk will also touch on the ethics of reprogramming biology and then examine some practical applications of this work, ranging from producing carbon neutral jet fuel to discovering new therapeutics.