LSU Chemical Engineering Professor Earns Pair of NSF Grants

August 2, 2022

BATON ROUGE, LA – LSU Chemical Engineering Assistant Professor Xun Tang has been awarded a pair of National Science Foundation grants for two projects – one that will combine engineering and biology to create gene circuits with new capabilities that could lead to applications in advanced biocomputing and therapeutics and another that seeks to create an optimal control framework for rapid production of a perfect 2-dimensional colloidal assembly. 

The first project, “EAGER: Design of an RNA-Based Dual Regulator for Repetitive Gene Expression Regulation,” is funded by a $299,779 two-year grant, with $171,950 going to Tang and $115,829 going to LSU Biological Engineering Assistant Professor Yongchan Kwon, who is working with Tang.

Current biological controllers are confined by unidirectional and non-repetitive regulation of the target gene expression, or the process by which a gene is turned on in a cell to make RNA and proteins. This can hamper their applications in cases where repetitive up and down regulations are needed. Tang and Kwon’s project focuses on the design of genetic controllers with expanded regulation capability and improved feasibility for potential practical applications. The findings from this project are expected to benefit research in synthetic biology, mathematical modeling, control, and cell-free systems.

The second project, “A Neural Network-Based Optimal Control Framework for Colloidal Self-Assembly,” is funded by a $262,535 three-year grant. 

The two main obstacles being addressed in this project are the lack of an accurate and generalizable state representation approach to assess the system state during colloidal self-assembly and a reliable and computationally-efficient approach to describe and predict the system dynamics. To address these, Tang proposes a neural network-based optimal control framework that draws upon multidisciplinary expertise from colloidal systems, machine learning, and optimal control theory to provide a novel approach for rapid production of perfect 2-dimensional colloidal assembly. 

The success of this work will, in part, benefit studies on related atomic and molecular self-assembly systems, such as crystallization for drug production and nuclear waste handling, as well as protein self-assembly.

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Contact: Joshua Duplechain
Director of Communications
225-578-5706 (o)