Our group seeks to understand and control decision-making in bacteria. These seemingly simple organisms make complex decisions (Which carbon source should I consume? Should I excrete toxins, halt growth, or communicate with my neighbors?) by processing information from their environment and their internal metabolic and epigenetic states. How the received information is translated into a defined decision is dictated by gene regulatory networks. The structure, function, and adaptability of these networks allow bacteria to flourish in extreme environments or in our own bodies in either commensal or pathogenic roles. We seek to understand the properties of the gene regulatory networks responsible for decision-making in bacteria and to manipulate these networks toward controlling cellular behavior.
One of the principal components of gene regulatory networks in bacteria are regulatory RNAs. Once overlooked, these regulators now are recognized as major players in numerous cellular processes including host infection and antibiotic resistance. The known types of regulatory RNAs vary widely: some base pair with target mRNAs or genomic DNA, some bind intracellular molecules such as metals and metabolites, and others bind proteins to modulate their activity and function. We are investigating how regulatory RNAs participate in gene regulatory networks and how the different types of regulatory RNAs can be reverse-engineered to address current challenges in health and sustainability. To tackle these questions, our group employs a combination of molecular biology techniques, engineering design, and mathematical modeling.
Focus Areas - Synthetic Biology, Systems Biology, RNA Engineering
Honors and Awards
- 2014 National Science Foundation CAREER Award
- 2010 NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence
- 2010 Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Fellow of the Life Sciences Research Foundation
- 2006 Constantin G. Economou Memorial Prize
- 2005 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
- 2005 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship