Between May 20 and 22, Florida A and M University is hosting the International Workshop on Biologically Enabled Self Assembly in collaboration with the University of California - Davis and the International Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter.
The keynote speaker is Ned Seeman of New York University, known as the father of DNA technology. The workshop showcases one of FAMU President Elmira Mangum’s priorities for the university she has led since last year: establishing collaborative relationships with leading scientists from around the world.
“The new administration wants to raise the research standard here at FAMU. And having very good research is also very helpful to teach students,” said FAMU physics Professor Mogus Mochena.
He added the workshop will focus on DNA’s potential as a blueprint for useful non-living structures… such as solar power or the cures for different diseases.
“So nature does it in its own way, and we’re trying to understand how that process works, and then try to mimic it or modify it to build useful, or what we call functional, structures for humanity.”
For instance, Mochena explained, DNA technology might be able to unlock the secrets of degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
“The cause for that is what are called amyloid fibrils. And these are protein structures. So if you understand how proteins assemble, how they come together, then you could have an answer for this important problem,” Mochena said.
Researchers have also used self-assembled proteins for tissue growth and healing. But FAMU’s chief sustainability officer, Abena Ojetayo said there’s another reason the university is excited about this topic.
“It cuts across the disciplines. And the Sustainability Institute was created to catalyze these kinds of interactions, to encourage the kind of interdisciplinary work that forces you out of your labs into connections, into conversations with others in different fields,” Ojetayo said.
Those conversations will unfold over the three days, with 20 scientists giving presentations and meeting with FAMU students and faculty.