Our research integrates biochemistry, genetics and mathematical modelling to characterise fundamental mechanisms of gene control and how these elements are combined to create gene regulatory circuits with complex functions.
Having a detailed understanding of the properties of natural regulatory circuits will make it possible to rearrange these components to build circuits with new and interesting behaviours - the emerging discipline of synthetic biology. We have a strong focus on using and developing mathematical modelling as a tool to advance understanding of gene regulatory mechanisms and systems, a tool that will be essential for the new ‘systems biology’ as molecular biology tries to move from characterizing the parts of cells and their simple interactions to understanding how these interactions combine to generate complex functions. We find that the process of attempting to construct a mathematical model of a biological system is valuable in itself - helping to clarify ideas, define assumptions and identify missing information. Once a model is made, comparison of the model with available experimental data can reveal shortcomings in either, leading to changes to the model or to improved data collection or interpretation. A consistent mathematical description is a powerful tool, providing precise predictions to aid further experimental tests, and allowing rapid exploration of the range of properties of the system to generate insights into design features.
Our research program and our strong links with the Center for Models of Life at the Niels Bohr Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen, including student exchanges, provide an exceptional environment for researchers and students to experience and contribute to applying mathematical thinking to gene regulation and to the collection of experimental data that is amenable to this kind of analysis.