This week we spoke with William Poole, a graduate student at Caltech working on quite a few topics! His research spans synthetic/systems biology to molecular programming, software development to chemical reaction network (CRN) theory, machine learning to cell free systems. We certainly had a lot to talk about!
We started off by discussing BioCRNPyler, a library which Will has been working on that allows for the rapid development and compilation of complex CRNs. He describes how BioCRNPyler can help you rapidly design CRNs in a variety of cellular contexts. The CRNs can then be simulated using any simulator/solver. We also discuss other software projects he is involved with such as Bioscrape and Vivarium.
Next we move onto William’s research into chemical Boltzmann machines, what they are and how they are related to machine learning, while talking about how low molecular copy number systems might be able to perform more complex computation than high copy number systems.
We also talk about how William got into molecular programming from his undergraduate degree, which focussed on physics and biology. He describes how his undergraduate research led him in various directions, and even into working in bioinformatics at the Institute of Systems Biology for a few years before pursuing graduate school.
This ultimately spurred on a somewhat grand discussion on William’s “dream” for molecular programming. He is very concerned about climate change, and talks at length about how in the long term we might be able to program many of the materials around us to sequester carbon, and eventually “re-terraform” the earth. Finally, we asked why physicists and engineers are able to come together to build large scale projects such as the LHC and ISS, while no such projects exist for the biological sciences, and we speculate on what such a project could look like for our field...
Find more information at the episode page here: