Bio-X Graduate Student Fellow

Awarded in 2015
Home Department: Bioengineering
Faculty Advisors: Christina Smolke (Bioengineering) and Rhiju Das (Biochemistry)

Research Title: Designing new promoters for gene expression control in yeast

Research Description: Using engineered microbes to produce scarce natural compounds could potentially increase their availability, but the complex genetic Photo of Benjamin Kotopka.pathways required to do this are difficult to construct with available tools. In particular, only a few natural promoter sequences are available to drive strong expression of heterologous enzymes. Promoters are DNA sequences composed of short, specific protein-binding motifs separated by “spacer sequences”; redesigning the spacer sequences using biophysical models to generate new sequences with similar properties to the originals could provide new promoters. Ben will use a high-throughput screening approach to simultaneously test multiple biophysically informed approaches to artificial promoter generation.


Benjamin is the Head of Data Science at Antheia, a startup enabling the discovery and production of plant-inspired drugs through a pioneering approach to bioengineering and fermentation.