Seminar by Somin Eunice Lee

Engineering Photonic Gene Circuits

Somin Eunice Lee, PhD
NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellow
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories


11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Fung Auditorium



Despite some initial success, many important gene circuits remain incompletely understood. Increased understanding of information processing and operation of gene circuits should advance therapeutic strategies for reconfiguring gene circuits involved in disease progression and cancer. A major challenge is probing native gene circuits with high signal fidelity. In this talk, I will discuss recent developments in noble metal nanoantennas to overcome this limitation. A nanoantenna receives and focuses freely propagating optical and near infrared (NIR) fields as an analogous, classical antenna receives and focuses radio-frequency fields. Its plasmon resonance can be specifically tuned to the NIR spectral region where cells and tissues are essentially transparent. Moreover, interfering oligonucleotides, such as antisense DNA and small interfering RNA (siRNA), can be attached to the surface of nanoantennas. Interfering oligonucleotides enable direct, sequence-specific silencing of genes, but alone, lack precise spatiotemporal manipulation. While interfering oligonucleotides are attached to nanoantennas, oligonucleotide functionality is inactivated. By focusing freely propagating optical fields down to nanometer-scale dimensions, optically addressable, light-absorbing nanoantennas can photothermally release oligonucleotides and subsequently “activate” oligonucleotide functionality. The work presented here details major advances towards precise temporal modulation of genes through the use of nanoantennas. Finally, I will discuss engineering photonic gene circuits in living cells. Equipped with new tools to directly probe the intracellular space, quantitative approaches should capture many dynamic activities within the living cell that were otherwise previously impossible to detect using conventional methods.


Dr. Somin Eunice Lee completed her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering at UC Davis. She received her Ph.D. degree in Bioengineering at UC Berkeley as a Siebel Scholar and National Physical Science Consortium Graduate Fellow. Her doctoral research with Prof. Luke Lee focused on the theoretical understanding, characterization, and applications of the absorption optical properties exhibited by noble metal nanoparticles. With a National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Health (NIH), she is currently a Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Mina Bissell in the Life Sciences Division and with Prof. Paul Alivisatos in the Material Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She has served as a University Ambassador for the Siebel Foundation on behalf of UC Berkeley. Her research interests include engineering new nanomaterials and nanotechnologies displaying unique scale-dependent and material-dependent properties to address questions important in fundamental biology and clinical translation.

Seminar Date