Undergraduate Students Win International Data Science Competition
Undergraduate students Hongsen Qin, Emma Qian, Thomas Hoffmann, and Alexander Zlokapa (advised by Professors Aaron Ames, Erik Winfree, Jonathan Katz, Maria Spiropulu, and Yaser Abu-Mostafa) have won the Citadel Data Open International Data Science Competition. This winning team chose to investigate the optimal way to spend $1 billion to save lives from malaria and sanitation-related diseases, allocating funds for different prevention methods and optimizing budget breakdowns country by country. To quantify the socioeconomic impacts of their policy proposal, they modeled a variety of aspects from mosquito feeding cycles to climate change using techniques ranging from causal discovery methods to interpretable machine learning. The Caltech team was among 24 teams that were evaluated and questioned by a panel of experts including the former Chief Scientist of AI at Microsoft, a Princeton professor, and the chief of equities at Citadel. The Caltech team was chosen as the first place winner based on the depth, rigor, and comprehensiveness of their analysis.
Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, and colleagues including Caltech alumnae Rebecca Schulman, have created a new system to copy sequence information. In their approach, tiny DNA tile crystals consisting of many copies of a piece of information are first grown, then broken into a few pieces by mechanically-induced scission, or force. The new crystal bits contain all the information needed to keep copying the sequence. Each piece then begins to replicate its information and grow until broken apart again—without the help of enzymes, an essential ingredient in biological sequence replication. [Caltech Press Release]
Largest Biochemical Circuit Built Out of Small Synthetic DNA Molecules
Lulu Qian, Senior Postdoctoral Scholar in Bioengineering, and colleagues including Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, have built the most complex biochemical circuit ever created from scratch made with DNA-based devices in a test tube that are analogous to the electronic transistors on a computer chip."We're trying to borrow the ideas that have had huge success in the electronic world, such as abstract representations of computing operations, programming languages, and compilers, and apply them to the biomolecular world," says Dr. Qian. [Caltech Press Release]