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Samuel Schaffter (Fed)

Postdoctoral Researcher

Sam conducted his PhD research in the field of DNA nanotechnology and DNA computing, working in Rebecca Schulman’s group at Johns Hopkins. He developed synthetic transcription-based networks with dynamics programmed via Watson-Crick base pairing rules. These in vitro networks emulated key functionalities of cellular genetic regulatory networks and thus could serve as a programmable “synthetic genome” for controlling nucleic acid materials and devices, such as DNA nanostructures and DNA-responsive hydrogels. The goal of his research was to engineer synthetic materials capable of sophisticated behaviors seen in biology including hierarchical differentiation or self-healing.

As a National Research Council (NRC) postdoctoral fellow at NIST, Sam is interested in moving DNA computing circuits from the test tube to living cells. Current DNA-based circuits are only single use and suffer from degradation in vivo, limiting their practical applications. To overcome these limitations, Sam’s current research focuses on transcriptionally encoding RNA-based circuits, equivalent to those developed in DNA computing, that can operate continuously inside living cells. These circuits could be programmed to recognize complex differential gene expression patterns in real-time in vivo, potentially enabling a new class of living measurement systems.


Created September 1, 2020, Updated January 26, 2021