Our group uses synthetic biology to understand the design principles of genetic circuits in living cells and tissues. We developed the original Repressilator, an artificial genetic clock that generates gene expression oscillations in individual E. coli cells, as well as other synthetic circuits. Our lab also showed that gene expression is intrinsically stochastic, or ‘noisy’, and revealed how noise functions to enable a variety of cellular functions, from probabilistic differentiation to time-based regulation. We are currently bringing synthetic approaches to multicellular development, focusing on cell-cell communication, morphogenetic patterning, epigenetic memory and cell fate control. These studies combine single-cell analysis, circuit rewiring, and mathematical modeling to reveal often counterintuitive circuit design principles. Finally, working with Long Cai, our lab recently demonstrated a synthetic system called MEMOIR that allows cells to record their own histories in their genomes, and is now working to develop and apply MEMOIR in diverse systems.

Awards and Achievements

  • Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences ( 2015)
  • Allen Distinguished Investigator ( 2014)
  • HFSP Nakasone Award ( 2011)
  • Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering ( 2008)
  • MacArthur Fellow ( 2007)
  • Burroughs Wellcome Career Award at the Scientific Interface ( 2002-2007)
  • Searle Scholar