Colloquium Speaker

Speaker:Anne Condon
University of Wisconsin
Topic:DNA Computing on Surfaces
Date:Thursday, December 17, 1998
Time:3:00 PM
Place:Gould-Simpson, Room 701

Refreshments will be served in the 7th-floor lobby of Gould-Simpson at 2:45 PM


In 1994, Len Adleman described how to solve a small instance of a famous combinatorial problem - the Traveling Salesman problem - in a novel way. Adleman's method was to efficiently create a test tube of DNA strands, each representing a possible solution to the problem, and to extract the elusive true solution using tools from molecular biology.

Adleman's work raises many questions at the interface of chemistry, mathematics, and computer science. How can digital information be efficiently stored in, and subsequently retrieved from, DNA molecules? How can logical operations be performed on information-carrying DNA strands? What kinds of combinatorial problems can be solved using such tools? How can the errors that are inherent in such DNA "computations" be controlled? What might be useful applications of DNA computing?

In this talk, we describe work at U. Wisconsin-Madison that addresses these questions. The premise of the Wisconsin DNA computing group is that surface-based chemistry will be a critical technology in realizing DNA computation. With this approach, many DNA strands are immobilized on a planar surface. Logical operations are performed on all of the strands in parallel, using chemical and enzymatic processes. This surface-based approach allows a much greater degree of control in the chemical processes than that achievable via the test tube based methodology of Adleman. The talk will emphasize the combinatorial problems that arise in building our prototype DNA computer.

The DNA computing project at UW-Madison involves Professors Max Lagally (Materials Science), Rob Corn and Lloyd Smith (Chemistry), and Anne Condon (Computer Sciences), along with several students.