A Statistical Physics Approach to Self-Assembly and Computation in Cellular Signal Transduction
This event is part of the Preliminary Oral Exam.
Pankaj Mehta, Kirill Korolev, Claudio Chamon, Liam Pitzpatrick, Rama Bansil
Signal transduction is the process through which extracellular cues are transduced into intracellular molecular responses. It is carried out by specialized signaling pathways consisting of proteins that can physically bind each other and modify enzymatic activities. In this talk, I’ll argue that signal transduction is -- at both the fundamental and practical level -- a high-level computation machine that operates on a specific “biophysical grammar” which has a natural interpretation as a lambda-calculus (an important concept in mathematical logic of computation). I will demonstrate the utility of of this perspective by showing how we are using ideas from statistical physics to develop new frameworks for designing synthetic signaling networks to carry out specific computations and decisions. I will end by discussing future research directions including strategies of quantifying the computational power of signaling networks (capacity) and identifying the general design principles governing computation by protein-protein interaction networks.