DISTINGUISHED LECTURE SERIES: Algorithmic Self-Assembly of DNA: Theory and Experiment

May 8, 2007
4:00 - 5:00 pm
Nelson Auditorium, Andersen Hall


Self-assembly is a fundamental process in the self-organization of biological as well as non-biological structures. Passive self-assembly of molecular units, being driven just by thermodynamic binding energies and the geometrical structure of the molecules, would seem to be the simplest case to study -- but it can be remarkably complicated. In fact, in a model of generalized crystal growth abstracted as the self-assembly of Wang tiles, passive self-assembly can be shown to be Turing universal. This leads to a number of theoretical observations: complex shapes that have concise algorithmic descriptions can be self-assembled from a small number of parts; these self-assembled structures can perform error correction during growth and can self-heal after damage; and as a simple form of self-replication, algorithmic crystals could provide an abiological example of Darwinian evolution. In our lab, we have been working to demonstrate these principles experimentally, using molecular Wang tiles constructed from DNA. Several examples will be given.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the Tufts depts. of Biology, Chemistry, and Biomedical Engineering.