I am thrilled to join the W.H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, and am still feeling energized by all of the excellent research that I learned about during my visits there, as well as the faculty's outstanding impact in entrepreneurship and society. My research aims to determine how the intrinsic properties of chromatin, the DNA-protein structure that packages eukaryotic genes, can be manipulated to control developmental processes in human cells and tissues. My overarching vision is a leap forward in the efficacy and flexibility of eukaryotic genome engineering, supported by new approaches to epigenetic control. I believe that approaching the genome as a nucleoprotein complex, rather than as 'naked' DNA, will support this advance. My lab currently focuses on the following goals: (i) design and delivery of histone-binding proteins that control gene expression, (ii) reprogramming cancer gene expression through broad chromatin disruption, and (iii) manipulating chromatin to make genome editing more robust and reliable.
Before joining the BME faculty at Georgia Tech and Emory, I earned my Ph.D. studying epigenetics and chromatin in Drosophila at Washington University, St. Louis, then moved toward the fascinating field of synthetic biology during postdoctoral fellowships at Davidson College and Harvard Medical School. My primary activities in the broader synthetic biology community include roles as Judge Emeritus for the International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition (iGEM), a founding council member for the national Engineering Biology Research Consortium (EBRC), and a founding instructor for the Synthetic Biology summer course at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
In case you are wondering what synthetic biology is (I hear this question a lot), I think the most unique aspect is its application of control theory to biological systems that have been constructed de novo. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, engineering degrees are more highly represented among the founders of the field than biology degrees. As a former high school math nerd turned research biologist, I find this characteristic of the field to be inspirational.
I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to work with the BME faculty to continue and expand your activities in synthetic biology, and to spark creative connections around this area. If you are interested in research collaborations, or any national or international synthetic biology activities, please do not hesitate to contact me via email or to stop by my lab in the HSRB.