Bacterial photography and edge detection: engineering light sensitive circuits in E. coli


The focus of this project is to explore how synthetic biology can enable the combination of natural and engineered genetic parts, by creating an exotic functionality not typically found in nature.

The Idea

The project aims to reproduce the work published in two papers by Levskaya et al. (Nature, 2005) and Tabor et al. (Cell, 2009). These publications describe synthetic genetic circuits in E. coli capable of responding to light and detecting edges in images. Edge detection is of interest because nature is typically low-pass, and because it has a direct analogy in engineering applications including signal processing.  Generally, the project aims to develop along two parallel “biological” and “computational” branches designed to be mutually informative and complementary. Theoretical design of genetic networks will focus on computationally-aided mathematical understanding of the system and selection of biological parts that match the desired behaviour, hence bridging biology and engineering. Depending on the progress made, we hope that our theoretical exploration may guide novel experiments not shown in the work to be replicated and improve the edge detection system. We will make our work available to other groups in collaboration to support novel applications and enable open innovation. Alongside the practical project, invited speakers will develop some of these topics in more detail, present current research, or expand on wider areas of synthetic biology.

The Team

President, Bill Jia

Part IIb Engineering Tripos

Vice-President, Camillo Moschner

PhD Candidate, BBSRC DTP in Biological Sciences

Treasurer, Stefan Grossfurthner

PhD Candidate, Plant Sciences

Secretary, Andre Zylstra

PhD Candidate, Babraham Institute

Project Manager, Biological, Jarrod Shilts

PhD Candidate, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

Project Manager, Biological, Arin Wongprommoon

Part II Biochemistry, Natural Sciences Tripos

Project Manager, Biological, Dr. Eugene Park

Postdoctoral Fellow, Ringshausen Lab (MRC Stem Cell Institute)

Project Manager, Hardware, Joshua Lawrence

PhD Candidate, BBSRC DTP in Biological Sciences

Webmaster/Social Media Officer, Erica Lee

Part IIa Manufacturing Engineering Tripos

Project Outputs

Project Proposal

Original proposal and application


Project Resources

Jim Haseloffopenplant2, DNA