Some Constraints on the Evolution of Multi-cellular Organisms and Related Systems

D. B. Zoon Nguyen, DMS'89, Th'89

Friday, January 8, 2010

Spanos Auditorium

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

Once the evolution of life on Earth produces multi-cellular organisms, is it inevitable that they evolve into single individuals (like people and cats) instead of merely huge colonies of cells? I will answer this question using a multi-disciplinary approach, starting with an analysis of molecular gene expressions in unicellular organisms from the point of view of (digital) computer science, viewing ribosome as a kind of molecular Turing machine reading the DNA tape three base pairs at a time, implementing "if-then" conditionals to give rise to unicellular preferences for molecular nutrients. I will argue mathematically that the evolution of the means of aggregation of the preferences in a multicellular organism is significantly constrained by the theorems of Arrow, Gibbard-Satterthwaite, Feldman, Duggan-Schwartz, and Barbera-Kelly. I will give each of them an interpretation in terms of molecular biology and physics.

About the Speaker

Dr. D. B. Zoon Nguyen was one of the boat people who escaped the communist take-over of South Vietnam in 1975. He learned English in the refugee camps from Catholic nuns (later, from the TV show "Laverne and Shirley"), started high school in America, graduated Magna cum Laude with Highest Honors from Harvard, and was awarded an MD from Dartmouth Medical School and a Ph.D. from Thayer School of Engineering. After an 18-month post-doc at Yale University School of Medicine, he went to Denmark as a National Science Foundation North Atlantic Treaty Organization Post-doctoral Fellow at Aalborg University, Institute of Electronic Systems, in Aalborg, Denmark, and learned to speak Danish, Norwegian, and some Swedish during his year there. He completed internship and residency in radiation oncology at Yale, was awarded a US Patent during his internship, and subsequently became President and CEO of American Radiation Oncology. He practices radiation oncology in Mansfield, Ohio, and is a full partner of Mansfield Radiation Oncology.