Zechen Zhang '18, Physics

Counting States, Predicting Gene Expression and Making a Thermal Bioswitch

Biologists love cartoons: if you recall, the gene expression process might well be represented as lines (DNA) and circles (proteins). Can we make biology more simple and quantitative? Remarkably, it turns out that we can write down the equations for gene expression by simply counting states, a common method in statistical physics. Extending this theoretical framework of counting states, I showed in my thesis that we could successfully predict how temperature influence gene expression on a quantitative level. Through this talk, I hope to convey to you the beauty of physics in describing fundamental biological processes and the surprising usefulness of a quantitative theory.