Microsoft PhD scholarship for dr. ir. Tom de Greef
Dr. ir. Tom de Greef has received a Microsoft PhD scholarship in the field of biological computing. The project 'Compartmentalized RNA Computing using Protein-based Microcompartments' is a collaboration with the research group of Andrew Phillips, Microsoft Research, Cambridge. The aim of the PhD project is to develop compartmentalized DNA computers for the multiplex detection of microRNA in complex diseases such as cancer.
Traditional computers use a series of logical gates that transform different inputs into an output. For example, a transistor is switched on or off by the input of high or low voltage. Instead, a DNA computer uses a stream of chemical manipulation steps. By controlling the reactions between different DNA strands it is possible to create for example logical gates and operational amplifiers. These DNA computers are very suitable for the detection of multiple biomarkers. So far it has not been possible to use these DNA computers in serum because enzymes in serum break down DNA very quickly. By packaging the DNA computers in specially developed microcompartments they are shielded against these enzymes but can still detect biomarkers.
Each year PhD supervisors from academic institutions are invited to submit their proposals for research projects with Microsoft Research Cambridge. Applications are then assessed by colleagues and a maximum of 16 projects from the approximately 100 projects are selected for funding. PhD students are appointed and begin their research in the next academic year under the supervision of their academic supervisor, with co-supervision from a researcher at Microsoft Research Cambridge.