Is a single neuron “conscious?” Does your genetic code specify the precise position of every cell in your body? I’m interested in emergent behavior in biological systems: systems that exhibit behaviors seemingly more complex than the rules that encode them. How do we understand the mapping between simple rules and complex behavior? How do we engineer systems that behave in a predictable fashion? How do we take a dysfunctional system (say a complex disease like cancer or metabolic syndrome) and tweak the underlying component properties to improve its function?
Synthetic biology is rapidly giving us the tools to modify existing biological systems and create systems of our own design; systems biology approaches are advancing our power to understand and model both natural and artificial systems. The convergence of these two approaches promises to fundamentally change our understanding of biology, both ourselves and the world around us.
My additional interests include: extracting meaning from large data sets (statistics, algorithms, modeling, visualization and ontologies); fragility and robustness; and design (user interfaces, ergonomics, efficiency and workflow).