The CyGenTiG team at ETH Zürich

ETH Zürich is one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences. It is well known for its excellent education, ground-breaking fundamental research and for implementing its results directly into practice. Founded in 1855, ETH Zürich has more than 18,000 students from over 110 countries, including 3,900 doctoral students. About 500 professors currently teach and conduct research in engineering, architecture,mathematics, natural sciences, system-oriented sciences, and management and social sciences. Building on its strong foundation in research and education, ETH Zürich helps to solve complex questions facing society and regularly appears at the top of international rankings as one of the best universities in the world.

Mustafa Khammash heads the Control Theory and Systems Biology group at ETH Zürich. The group works at the interface of control theory, systems biology, and synthetic biology. It combines theoretical and computational studies with experimental work to get a deeper understanding of endogenous circuits in biology and to engineer biological circuits with novel function. The group has been pioneering the development of the theoretical foundations and experimental techniques for Cybergenetics—an emerging area in synthetic biology concerned with the analysis and synthesis of feedback control systems that steer in real-time the dynamic behavior of living cells. The group is advancing applications of cybergenetic controllers in basic science, industrial biotechnology, and therapeutics.

Sant Kumar completed his undergraduate studies with major in Electrical Engineering and minor in Computer Science at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India. He went on further to pursue his master studies in Robotics, Systems and Control at ETH Zurich. During his undergraduate and graduate years, he focused on various aspects of Robotics, Control Systems and Neuroscience. He is now a PhD candidate in Prof. Mustafa Khammash’s group at ETH Zurich where he aspires to channelize his skills and research potential towards biological applications.

Franziska Decker completed her undergraduate studies in Molecular Biotechnology and continued with a Master in Molecular Bioengineering at the BIOTEC, TU Dresden. She received her PhD working in the lab of Jan Brugués at the MPI-PKS and MPI-CBG, Dresden, where she investigated the mechanisms of microtubule nucleation and how they set the size of metaphase spindles using biophysical methods. During this time, she also learned how to build microscopes and deepened her skills in computational image analysis. Franziska joined the group of Mustafa Khammash in October 2019 as a postdoc to use her microscopy and image analysis expertise on organoids.

Tomasz Szczesnik overall research interest is in understanding how complex organisms, such as ourselves, are generated from the actions and computations carried out by individual cells. In my undergraduate studies I focused on developmental biology and neuroscience, during which I came to realise that the answers to such questions were out of reach without more powerful molecular and theoretical tools. Therefore during my PhD I researched a (slightly) simpler process using molecular and computational biology techniques: where transcription factors bind in the genome, and hence how they regulate differentiation of stem cells into more mature cell types. I joined the Khammash group in early 2019, where I hope that using light-controlled gene expression and control theory to regulate organoid cultures will help shed light on some of the fundamental problems of developmental biology, in particular how stochastic circuits and behaviours can robustly produce the same structure, even in the case of perturbations.