Designing Biological Systems

Pamela Silver, Professor of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School

Friday, October 2, 2009

Spanos Auditorium

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series

Biology presents us with an array of design principles. From studies of both simple and more complex systems, we understand at least some of the fundamentals of how Nature works. We are interested in using the foundations of biology to engineer cells in a logical way to perform certain functions. In doing so, we learn more about the foundations of biological design as well as engineer useful devices with myriad applications. For example, we are interested in building cells that can perform specific tasks, such as counting mitotic divisions, measuring life span and remembering past events. Moreover, we design and construct proteins and cells with predictable biological properties that not only teach us about biology but also serve as potential therapeutics, cell-based sensors and factories for generating bio-energy. In doing so, we have made new findings about how cells interact with and impact on the environment with regard to the carbon fixation machinery.

About the Speaker

Pamela A. Silver is a Professor in the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School and a member of the newly founded Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering of Harvard University. She received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of California and was an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University. Subsequently, she was an Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University where she was an NSF Presidential Young Investigator and an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association. She then moved to the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. In 2004, she became one of the first members of the new Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School and the first Director of the Harvard University Ph.D. Program in Systems Biology. She has served on numerous editorial boards and public and private scientific advisory boards. Her work has been funded by grants from NIH, NSF, DOD, DOE, American Heart Association, March of Dimes, Merck, Novartis and the Keck Foundation. She was the recipient of the Mentoring Award at Harvard Medical School, the NIH Director's Lecturer and is currently the holder of an NIH MERIT award.