Centre for Synthetic Biology and the Bioeconomy

Staff Profile

Dr Benjamin Shirt-Ediss

Research Associate


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 working in the domain of Synthetic Biology. I am Research Associate in Computational Nanobiology in the ICOS group at Newcastle University. I work as computational modeller on the Portabolomics EPSRC project held by the ICOS group. Currently, I am active in the computational modelling of DNA nanostructure folding, reaction systems made of DNA molecules, and on the modelling of circadian oscillations. I develop these computational / mathematical models in close collaboration with experimentalists working at Newcastle University's Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology.

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