7.349 Biological Computing: At the Crossroads of Engineering and Science

Spring 2005

Diagram of the DNA computer at work.
Diagram of the DNA computer at work. Figure based on work published in Benenson Y., R. Adar, T. Paz-Elizur, Z. Livneh, and E. Shapiro. "DNA molecule provides a computing machine with both data and fuel." Proc Natl Acad Sci U.S.A. 100, no. 5 (March 4, 2003): 2191-6. (Figure courtesy of Yaakov Benenson, Rivka Adar, Tamar Paz-Elizur, Zvi Livneh, Ehud Shapiro, and Jennifer Viegas.)

Course Highlights

This course features a complete bibliography of readings.

Course Description

Imagine you are a salesman needing to visit 100 cities connected by a set of roads. Can you do it while stopping in each city only once? Even a supercomputer working at 1 trillion operations per second would take longer than the age of the universe to find a solution when considering each possibility in turn. In 1994, Leonard Adleman published a paper in which he described a solution, using the tools of molecular biology, for a smaller 7-city example of this problem. His paper generated enormous scientific and public interest, and kick-started the field of Biological Computing, the main subject of this discussion based seminar course. Students will analyze the Adleman paper, and the papers that preceded and followed it, with an eye for identifying the engineering and scientific aspects of each paper, emphasizing the interplay of these two approaches in the field of Biological Computing. This course is appropriate for both biology and non-biology majors. Care will be taken to fill in any knowledge gaps for both scientists and engineers.
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Dr. Julia Khodor

Course Meeting Times

One session / week
2 hours / session