Somehow you have stumbled onto this blog. That's good, I guess. First off, let me introduce myself: My name is Howard Salis and I'm a graduate student within the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science here at the U of Minnesota.
My research is on the study and design of systems of genes, also called 'gene networks' or 'regulatory networks' or just plain gene expression. Some people have recently branded this area of reseach as "Synthetic Biology" because a lot of knowledge may be gained by building systems from scratch. Well, no one has built a biological system from scratch yet..so it mostly means that we're building systems that have never existed before in nature, but using parts that nature has graciously given us. I can just about hear the red whirling lights of fear dancing in your head. Every time I mention my research to *cough* lay people I elicit two widely different responses: It's either 'Wow, that's so cool!' or 'MY GOD, you'll kill us all!'. I'm sure people working on the first microwave got the same response. I plan to use this blog to both document my own thoughts on the science behind synthetic biology and, if I get any readers, to discuss the ethical consequences of the now having the capability to design biological systems from a rational perspective.
But, and you should understand this, there's a lot of mathematics behind the 'rational design' part of synthetic biology. It's not easy to predict the de novo structure of a protein, the kinetic constants of molecular interactions, or the dynamics of gene expression. There's some crazy math involved and I may delve into the vortex of technicality and jargon. O well, you're reading this far so you can't be completely bored. I may also use this blog to document my thoughts on papers I've recently read. I have about 300 papers in my desk cabinet and I've honestly come to the point where it's very difficult to pick up one that I've read and say "I remember reading this." That's bad. Notes are good. Blogs are good. Why not do both at the same time?