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27/10/2016

Damien Woods, head of new Tapdance team

Damien Woods

Tapdance team was created on Jully 1st  2016, in the Inria research center of Paris and is directed by Damien Woods.

What does TAPDANCE mean. What are your main research themes?

TAPDANCE is an approximate acronym for Theory and Practice of Nanoscale Computing Engines.

Our research is concerned with designing, analysing and implementing molecular systems that compute. For an implementation substrate we use DNA, a versatile information-encoding molecule, to build molecular computers that carry out tasks like simulating Boolean circuits, autonomous self-replication and even sophisticated robotics tasks all at the nanoscale. On the theoretical side we develop new models of computation, or look at existing models, and theoretically analyse them to find out exactly what are their computational powers. Sometimes the questions we ask about molecular computers are inspired by what we might ask about more conventional models of computation, but more often we need to find new questions and new proof techniques to explore their capabilities.

Is it more fundamental or applied research? Are there applications?

Our research agenda is quite broad in the sense that it mixes both theory and wet-lab experiment, but in fact we think of our work as fundamental research. Our team is new to Inria and we expect people joining our team to span this wide agenda, working some days at the whiteboard and others while wearing lab gloves. In order to understand the capabilities of molecular computers we feel that both approaches are useful and sometimes even necessary. Luckily, we are at an early stage in the new field of molecular programming where it is possible for one person to both propose new theoretical models of computation and then go on to build them in the wet-lab.

Do you have any industrial or academic partnerships ?

In France, our wet-lab work is done with André-Estevez Torres and Jean-Christophe Galas (both CNRS) at Paris 6 and with Yannick Rondelez at ESPCI. We do theoretical work with Nicolas Schabanel (CNRS, Paris 7, ENS Lyon) and others in France. Pierre-Étienne Meunier will soon join our team from Aalto, Finland. We have ongoing collaborations with a number of people including Erik Winfree (Caltech), Bernard Yurke (Boise State), David Doty (UC Davis), Peng Yin (Harvard), Cameron Myrhold (Harvard), Matthew Patitz (Arkansas), Robert Schweller & Andrew Winslow (both at Texas Rio Grande Valley), Erik Demaine (MIT), Martin Demaine (MIT), Sándor Fekete (TU Braunschweig), Jack Lutz (Iowa State), Chris Thachuk (Caltech), David Soloveichik (UT Austin), Trent Rogers (Arkansas), Ashwin Gopinath (Caltech), Ho-Lin Chen (National Taiwan University), Rizal Hariadi (Arizona State), Turlough Neary (ETH Zurich & Univ. of Zurich), Niall Murphy (Cambridge) and many more colleagues and former students.
Often I'm ready to drop everything I'm doing in favour of a chat about science at the whiteboard, drop me a line if you want to chat!

Keywords: Damien Woods Equipe Tapdance Inria de Paris Theory Practice Nanoscale Computing Engines

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