Vermont State Mathematics Coalition

Math Beyond the Horizon
DNA self-assembly. How small is that?

Saturday, October 16, 2021, 10:00 AM

Imagine using DNA not to encode genetic information, but rather as a new nano-scale building material. What would you build with incredibly small building blocks that even assembly themselves? Robots in the blood stream? The world’s smallest circuitboard? A cure for cancer? How would that even work?

Right now, scientists are engineering self-assembling DNA molecules to serve emergent applications in biomolecular computing, nanoelectronics, biosensors, drug delivery systems, and organic synthesis. But in order to design these structures efficiently, they need to have good mathematical strategies. Often, the self-assembled objects, e.g. lattices or polyhedral skeletons, may be modeled as graphs. Thus, these new technologies in self-assembly are now generating fascinating and challenging new design problems for which graph theory is a natural tool.

We will see some of the cutting-edge applications in DNA self-assembly and how the mathematical tools of graph theory can help them become reality.

Jo Ellis-Monaghan,

Dr. Ellis-Monaghan has an undergraduate degree in Studio Art and Mathematics from Bennington College, a Masters in Mathematics from the University of Vermont, and a PhD in Mathematics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is currently a full professor at the Korteweg – de Vries Instituut voor Wiskunde at the University of Amsterdam, where she is group leader for the Discrete Mathematics and Quantum Information Group. She works in the areas of algebraic combinatorics, especially graph polynomials; applied graph theory in DNA self-assembly, statistical mechanics, computer chip design, and bioinformatics; and undergraduate mathematics pedagogy. Her work explores the dark spaces between disciplines, leveraging connections and ideas than can take a field in new and unexpected directions. She is also interested in the dynamics between society and mathematics, especially how the demands of a culture can drive mathematics in particular directions, and conversely, how mathematical advances enable the development of new social structures. She is an editor of Annales de l’Institut Henri Poincare D: Combinatorics, Physics, and their Interactions, as well as PRIMUS: Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies.

This series is oriented toward strong high school math students interested in new topics, but is open to anyone. Registration is free, but required. Register here for this talk.

Contact us.

Latest Update: October 6, 2021