Evolutionary design principles of biomolecular networks and ecologies and engineering of feedback control systems
Microbes exhibit diverse functionalities ranging from energy generation via chemical transformations to collective population-scale behaviors. Due to their versatility, sensitivity, selectivity and scale, engineered microbes hold significant promise to address global challenges in medicine, agriculture and energy. However, programming microbial systems is challenging because their responses are controlled by dense networks of non-linearly interacting components that are connected by numerous feedback loops. Unraveling the emergent properties of these complex systems requires quantitative understanding of the mapping between network activity and population dynamics in response to environmental inputs.
The Venturelli lab aims to extract evolutionary design principles of networks and synthetic ecologies using a combination of experiment, computation and theory. We seek to elucidate the network design principles that underlie dynamic responses of microbial populations and ecosystems in response to complex environmental inputs, and develop methods to construct predictable feedback control systems for targeted manipulation of microbial function, dynamics and fitness. Our work combines concepts from control theory, information theory, game theory, nonlinear dynamical systems, and multi-objective optimization with multiplexed measurements and perturbations of single cells and populations.