Dirks Prize Recipients
2021 Dr. Samuel Schaffter
The 2021 Robert Dirks Molecular Programming Prize was awarded to Dr. Samuel Schaffter for his work on modular in vitro regulatory networks and feedback control of self-assembly. Sam performed this research as a graduate student working under the supervision of Prof. Rebecca Schulman at Johns Hopkins University.
2020 Dr. Zibo Chen
The 2020 Robert Dirks Molecular Programming Prize was awarded to Dr. Zibo Chen for his work in rational protein design, inspired by the modularity and programmability of DNA base-pairing, engineering libraries of pairwise protein assemblies held together by specific hydrogen bond networks to provide a basis for modular design of protein logic gates and materials. Zibo performed this research as a graduate student and postdoctoral scholar working under the supervision of Prof. David Baker and Prof. Frank DiMaio at the University of Washington.
2019 Dr. Grigory Tikhomirov
The 2019 Robert Dirks Molecular Programming Prize was awarded to Dr. Grigory Tikhomirov of the California Institute of Technology for his work engineering hierarchical, disordered, and reconfigurable programmable nanostructures, demonstrating principles for scaling up structural complexity, trading off deterministic control for structural diversity, and implementing autonomous structural reconfiguration. Greg performed this research as a postdoctoral scholar under the supervision of Prof. Lulu Qian at the California Institute of Technology.
2018 Dr. Fei Zhang
The 2018 Robert Dirks Molecular Programming Prize was awarded to Dr. Fei Zhang of Arizona State University for her work engineering molecular wireframes with defined vertex angles and edge curvatures and for developing molecular architectures for expressing knots and cages with high crossing number, suggesting a path toward programmable and expressible structural complexity. Fei performed this work as a graduate student and postdoctoral researcher with Prof. Hao Yan at Arizona State University.
2017 Dr. Ashwin Gopinath
The 2017 Robert Dirks Molecular Programming Prize was awarded to Dr. Ashwin Gopinath of the California Institute of Technology, for his work developing scalable and programmable nanophotonic devices. Combining the top-down scalability of photonic crystal cavity layout on a chip and the bottom-up programmability of DNA origami components that precisely organize emitters within cavities, the work bridges the fields of molecular programming and applied physics to offer a path toward label-free single-molecule detection and quantum information processing. Ashwin performed this research as a postdoctoral scholar under the supervision of Prof. Paul Rothemund at the California Institute of Technology.
2016 Dr. Thomas Ouldridge
The inaugural Robert Dirks Molecular Programming Prize was awarded to Dr. Thomas Ouldridge of Imperial College London, for his work developing a coarse-grained model and simulation framework for DNA. By capturing the essential biophysics of unpaired, paired, and transitioning nucleotides, the oxDNA framework enables simulation of long-time-scale dynamics for an arbitrary number of strands (including pseudoknotting), with wide applicability to problems in molecular programming and biology. Tom performed this research as a graduate student under the supervision of Prof. Ard Louis and Prof. Jonathan Doye at the University of Oxford.