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Jones Seminar: Engineering Living Sensors



3:30pm - 4:30pm ET

Spanos Auditorium/Online

Optional ZOOM LINK
Meeting ID: 954 0076 5810
Passcode: 903624

The rapid diversification of synthetic biology tools holds promise in making some hard-to-solve environmental problems tractable. In this talk, I will discuss problems in the Earth and environmental sciences that could be addressed using engineered living sensors. Such biosensors have the potential to offer new perspectives on open questions, including understanding microbial behaviors in heterogeneous environmental materials like soils, monitoring transient environmental pollutants in wastewater, tracking cryptic element cycling in sediments, and establishing the dynamics of cell-cell interactions in our gut. I will discuss different approaches that we have been taking to develop synthetic biology technologies that function in these environmental settings.

First, I will describe our efforts to overcome biological component limitations by using synthetic electron transfer pathway to study sequence-structure-function relationships in redox proteins. Second, I will describe how we have been using this pathway to engineer synthetic metalloproteins that regulate electron flow post-translationally. Finally, I will present data showing how these electrical switches can been used to build synthetic electron transfer pathways that report on inorganic and organic analytes in environmental samples by switching on extracellular electron transfer. These living electrical sensors, which convert chemical information into electrical information in real time, are expected to be useful as fast sensors in a wide range of complex environments.

About the Speaker(s)

Joff Silberg
Stewart Memorial Professor of BioSciences, Rice U

Joff Silberg

Dr. Silberg is the Stewart Memorial Professor at Rice University with appointments in the departments of Biosciences, Bioengineering, and Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. He applies synthetic biology at the cell-material to understand how to: (i) program electron transfer between cells and materials, (ii) program consortia without the need for domestication, and (iii) program microbes to report on their behaviors within hard-to-image materials such as soils, sediments, and sludge. Silberg is director of the Systems, Synthetic, and Physical Biology PhD program at Rice and director of the NSF-funded National Research Traineeship in Bioelectronics, and Research Experience for Undergraduates in Bionetworks. He is a member of the Engineering Biology Research Consortium, and co-chair of the Rice University Synthetic Biology Initiative.


For more information, contact Amos Johnson at