Dr Benjamin Shirt-Ediss
I am an interdisciplinary computer scientist whose research interests lie in the computational modelling and theoretical analysis of chemical, biochemical and physico-chemical systems. My academic background is in Artificial Life, and the Origins of Cellular Life.
My doctoral thesis related to the Origins of Cellular Life problem. I undertook this thesis in Spain between two distinct research groups: one centred on the Philosophy of Biology, and the other on Complex Systems. My thesis reflected this duality: in it, I combined conceptual/philosophical analysis of the problem of defining life (evolutionary view vs. autonomous systems view) along with scientific modelling work of chemical aggregates called "protocells", guided by the autonomous systems view of living systems. Overall, I sketched out a new general framework, based not on RNA or metabolism in isolation, but on the development of integrated protocells, that could be used to research the major prebiotic transitions leading up the the first cells on the early earth.
Now, I am Research Associate in Computational Nanobiology in the ICOS group at Newcastle University. I am active in modelling reaction systems based on nucleic acids and the formation of nano-structures made of DNA molecules. These techniques are new approaches to engineer advanced nano-devices which have myriad possibilities in future Synthetic Biology.