News

Professor Winfree Elected to American Association for the Advancement of Science

12-02-15

Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, has been elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) which is the world's largest general scientific society. Professor Winfree was recognized for his "foundational contributions to biomolecular computing and molecular programming." [Caltech story] [ENGenious feature]

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2015 Bhansali Prize Award Winners

06-11-15

Bryan He, a senior student advised by Yisong Yue, and William Hoza, a junior student advised by Leonard Schulman, are the recipients of the 2015 Bhansali Prize. Nicholas Schiefer, a junior student advised by Erik Winfree, won an honorable mention for the Prize. The Bhansali Prize is typically awarded to one undergraduate student for outstanding research in Computer Science in the current academic year, but due to the number of particularly high-caliber candidates in 2015, the Bhansali Prize committee determined that multiple students deserved the award.

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Best Paper in Distributed Computing

09-04-14

The paper, “Speed faults in computation by chemical reaction networks,” written by graduate student Rachel A. Cummings who is advised by Professor Katrina Ligett, Senior Research Fellow David Doty working in Professor Erik Winfree’s lab, and colleagues has received the best paper award at this year’s International Symposium on Distributed Computing. [Read the paper]

Tags: honors CMS Erik Winfree Katrina Ligett Rachel Cummings David Doty

Building Artificial Cells Will Be a Noisy Business

02-24-14

Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, explains, "I tend to think of cells as really small robots. Biology has programmed natural cells, but now engineers are starting to think about how we can program artificial cells. When I program my computer, I can think entirely in terms of deterministic processes. But when I try to engineer what is essentially a program at the molecular scale, I have to think in terms of probabilities and stochastic (random) processes. This is inherently more difficult, but I like challenges. And if we are ever to succeed in creating artificial cells, these are the sorts of problems we need to address." [Caltech Release]

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Molecular Programming Research Wins A Second $10 Million Award

09-17-13

Professor Erik Winfree and colleagues have won a second $10 million award for research in molecular programming. "Computer science gave us this idea that many tasks can actually be done with different types of devices," Winfree says. For example, a 19th-century cash register and a 21st-century computer can both be used to calculate sums, though they perform the same task very differently. At first glance, writing a computer program and programming a DNA molecule may seem like very different endeavors, but "each one provides a systematic way of implementing automated behaviors, and they are both based on similar principles of information technology," Winfree says. This Expeditions in Computing Award will be used to take their work in molecular programming to the next level: from proof-of-principle demonstrations to putting the technology in the hands of users in biology, chemistry, physics, and materials science. [Caltech Release]

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Robust Self-Replication

05-25-12

Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, and colleagues including Caltech alumnae Rebecca Schulman, have created a new system to copy sequence information. In their approach, tiny DNA tile crystals consisting of many copies of a piece of information are first grown, then broken into a few pieces by mechanically-induced scission, or force. The new crystal bits contain all the information needed to keep copying the sequence. Each piece then begins to replicate its information and grow until broken apart again—without the help of enzymes, an essential ingredient in biological sequence replication. [Caltech Press Release]

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DNA Robotics Research Earns Undergrads a Gold Prize

11-21-11

Undergraduate students Zibo Chen, Shayan Doroudi, Yae Lim Lee, Gregory Izatt, and Sarah Wittman have won a gold award at the 2011 International Bio-Molecular Design Competition (BIOMOD). BIOMOD is a competition for undergraduate teams who design research to address the control of biomolecules on the nanometer scale. The Caltech team's challenge was to make a synthetic DNA robot that has the ability to take a random walk —instead of walking on set path or track—on a two-dimensional origami surface that was also made out of DNA. The team is mentored by Professor Erik Winfree and sponsored by the Molecular Programming Project. [Caltech Feature] [Video of Project]

Tags: EE research highlights health CMS Erik Winfree Zibo Chen Shayan Doroudi Yae Lim Lee Gregory Izatt Sarah Wittman

First Artificial Neural Network Created Out of DNA

07-21-11

Lulu Qian, Senior Postdoctoral Scholar in Bioengineering; Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering; and Jehoshua (Shuki) Bruck, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering, are the first to have made an artificial neural network out of DNA, creating a circuit of interacting molecules that can recall memories based on incomplete patterns, just as a brain can. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: EE research highlights Jehoshua Bruck health CMS Erik Winfree Lulu Qian

Largest Biochemical Circuit Built Out of Small Synthetic DNA Molecules

06-02-11

Lulu Qian, Senior Postdoctoral Scholar in Bioengineering, and colleagues including Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, have built the most complex biochemical circuit ever created from scratch made with DNA-based devices in a test tube that are analogous to the electronic transistors on a computer chip."We're trying to borrow the ideas that have had huge success in the electronic world, such as abstract representations of computing operations, programming languages, and compilers, and apply them to the biomolecular world," says Dr. Qian. [Caltech Press Release]

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Molecules that Behave Like Robots

05-12-10

Erik Winfree, Associate Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, and colleagues from Columbia University, Arizona State University, and the University of Michigan have programmed an autonomous molecular "robot" made out of DNA to start, move, turn, and stop while following a DNA track. The development could ultimately lead to molecular systems that might one day be used for medical therapeutic devices and molecular-scale reconfigurable robots—robots made of many simple units that can reposition or even rebuild themselves to accomplish different tasks. [Caltech Press Release]

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