Research

select research projects


Biota Beats

bio ART

Hip hop is one of the great cultural languages of our time. DJing and turntablism, born from hip hop, are pervasive art forms at the core of our society. We have built Biota Beats, a microbial record player that translates microbes of the body into sound and music. Microbes from the human microbiota, the ecosystem of micro-organisms that inhabit the body, are cultured on custom biota records in our incubator system. Data gathered from the microbes are then sonified to produce beats from the bacteria of the body. Tune into the music of your microbes!

 

Metafluidics

open repository for bio-hardware

Fluidics are promising foundational tools forsynthetic biology. Unfortunately, fluidics are not broadly used, because they are difficult to manufacture and operate, and designs are currently not shared in a systematic fashion. Metafluidics is an open repository of both device and hardware designs to enable communities of users from around the world to share and remix bio-hardware. This repository is the hardware portal for the National Science Foundation supported Living Computing Project. Share your fluidic devices with the global community today!

Artificial Gut

synthetic organs

The human gut microbiota is one of the most densely populated ecosystems of microorganisms on earth. With an estimated 100 trillion micro-organisms, the gut is an extraordinarily complex system of microbe-microbe and microbe-host interactions. In collaboration with Professor Eric Alm, co-director of the MIT Microbiome Center, we are building a three-dimensional, artificial gut using the latest digital fabrication technologies for the systematic construction and study of synthetic microbial communities, including exploring the influence of engineered microorganisms on population dynamics.


3D Printed Fluidic Hardware for DNA Assembly

synbio | digital fabrication

The ability to rapidly and cheaply produce hardware for biological engineering would enable new communities of users to explore biology as a medium for creative expression. Utilizing commodity 3D printing, we fabricated multiple functional fluidic devices for miniaturizing DNA assembly, the foundational technology for synthetic biology, along with fluidic valves, the essential component for creating programmable devices. 3D print your own DNA assembler today!

miRNA-based Genetic Circuits for Cancer Detection

synbio | High-throughput library generation

miRNAs are a recently discovered class of nucleic acids involved in almost every aspect of human development. By querying only a small number of miRNAs in a cell, cell-type, and even disease state, can be discerned. In collaboration with MIT Professor Ron Weiss, we are developing tools for the high-throughput generation of libraries of genetic circuits to identify and destroy cancer cells via miRNA signatures. Additionally, with these circuit libraries we are cataloging expression profiles for every known human miRNA.

 

Rapid Protein Engineering for Bioremediation and Personalized Therapeutics

synbio | designer enzymes

A major bottleneck in protein engineering is the rate at which protein designs can be tested. We are developing fluidic platforms for the high-throughput synthesis and assay of hundreds of enzyme variants, in parallel, enabling protein engineers to rapidly test their designs to find the best candidates. We have utilized these platforms to prototype enzymes for the bioremediation of toxic chemicals and anti-viral therapeutics for personalized medicine.


Artificial Nose

synthetic organs

In my post-doctoral work, I served as a team leader for the $10 million DARPA-funded “RealNose” Project. In collaboration with Principal Research Scientist Shuguang Zhang, I demonstrated the first synthesis
of olfactory receptors in a microfluidic device for use with an odorant-detecting biosensor.

 

Microfluidic Gene Synthesis

synbio |automated DNA assembly

DNA synthesis is the foundational technology of synthetic biology. In my doctoral work, I demonstrated the first assembly of genes in a microfluidic, "lab-on-a-chip" system. I also developed platforms integrating gene synthesis with protein synthesis. Such miniaturized fluidic platforms are promising tools for the high-throughput automation of not only DNA assembly, but also the integration of protein and cellular engineering.

Ion- and Electron-beam Mediated Nanostructure Fabrication

nanotechnology

In my masters work I developed technologies for creating nanostructures utilizing energetic beams. I used a focused ion beam (FIB) to directly pattern nanoparticles composed of a variety of materials, and a technique for electrostatically attracting ionized inorganic nanoparticles to surfaces, termed nanoxerography.