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Using mathematical and engineered biological systems to study war and peace in microbial communities.(3 pm, JUN 24, Monday)
Published:2013-06-23 Hits:967

Title: Using mathematical and engineered biological systems to study war and peace in microbial communities.


Speaker: Wenying Shou

                  Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, USA


Time: 3 pm, JUN 24 (Monday), 2013


Place: Room 2201, East Guanghua Tower



The web of life is weaved from a wide variety of species connected through diverse interactions with fitness effects ranging from negative such as antagonism to positive such as cooperation. These inter-species interactions, or symbioses, drive the biogeochemical cycling of elements in the ecosystem and directly impact our health.


What are the bases for the origin and persistence of symbioses? What affects the ecology and evolution of symbioses? How do symbiotic partners evolve and co-evolve? How do symbioses affect community structure and function? A variety of model systems with inherent tradeoffs can be used: Mathematical models offer the highest level of abstraction, controllability, and flexibility. Starting from a set of assumptions shared among different systems, mathematical models aim to predict general phenomena, though predictions may not as realistic as any particular biological system. If a mathematical model is validated, parameters can be varied to perform computational “experiments” that would otherwise be nearly impossible to execute in the laboratory. Engineered biological systems offer the advantages of defined inter-species interactions, experimental tractability, and biological realism such as accumulation of diverse mutations. Simplified sub-communities of natural systems, selected for their ability to carry out particular reactions such as metabolizing complex organic compounds, offer a higher level of complexity than engineered systems yet still allow some experimental manipulability.


My group has mainly used engineeredS. cerevisiaesystems and mathematical models to explore three inter-related areas: 1. evolution of incipient inter-species cooperation; 2. mechanisms by which cooperators can fend off competitively superior cheaters; and 3. the influence of cell-cell interactions on community structure and function.



1988-90 Undergraduate, Genetics and Genetic Engineering, Fudan University

1990-93 B.A., Mathematics; B.A. Molecular Biology, Pomona College, Claremont, CA.

1993-2001 PhD, Biology, Caltech, Pasadena, CA.

2001-2007 Postdoc, Rockefeller University and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center, New York.

2007-Present Assistant Member, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Division of Basic Sciences, Seattle, WA.

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