In-person: Hamilton Institute Seminar room (317), 3rd Floor Eolas Building, North Campus, Maynooth University
Speaker: Dr Tom Ouldridge, Imperial College London
Title: "Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics of Catalytic Information Processing"
Abstract: Catalytic motifs are ubiquitous in cellular information-processing systems, from kinase signalling networks to the central dogma of molecular biology. This ubiquity results from the ability of catalysts to channel chemical free energy into far-from-equilibrium information-bearing states, allowing them to perform non-trivial computational operations. This power, however, comes at a price. At a fundamental level, the need to create non-equilibrium outputs sets thermodynamic constraints on these systems, analogous to those int he famous Maxwell demon and Szilard engine thought experiments. At a practical level, catalysts must carefully balance kinetic and thermodynamic factors to ensure that the desired non-equilibrium output is actually reached. The complexity of this task explains the comparatively slow progress made with engineering synthetic non-equilibrium information-processing systems, as opposed to synthetic systems that form complex equilibrium assemblies. I will present our latest work - both theoretical and experimental - aimed at overcoming this challenge to engineer non-equilibrium catalytic systems for information processing.
Bio: Tom completed his PhD at the University of Oxford, where he developed the oxDNA model of DNA which has had wide application in the fields of DNA nanotechnology and biophysics. Subsequently, via fellowships at University College Oxford and Imperial College London, Tom became interested in the thermodynamics of information processing, and the impact this thermodynamics has on the function of natural and synthetic molecular systems. In his latest position as a Royal Society University Research Fellow at Imperial, Tom is looking to combine these two aspects of his background. His "Principles of Biomolecular Systems" group looks to probe the fundamental physics of functional molecular motifs, then use the resultant understanding to engineer novel DNA-based analogues