Evolving small GRNs with a top-down approach
Proceedings of the Companion Publication of the 2014 Annual Conference on Genetic and Evolutionary Computation, , 41-42, 2014
Abstract: Designing genetic regulatory networks (GRNs) to achieve a desired cellular function is one of the main goals of synthetic biology. However, determining minimal GRNs that produce desired time-series behaviors is non-trivial. In this paper, we propose a 'top-down' approach, wherein we start with relatively dense GRNs and then use differential evolution (DE) to evolve interaction coefficients. When the target dynamical behavior is found embedded in a dense GRN, we narrow the focus of the search and begin aggressively pruning out excess interactions at the end of each generation. We first show that the method can quickly rediscover known small GRNs for a toggle switch and an oscillatory circuit. Next we include these GRNs as non-evolvable subnetworks in the subsequent evolution of more complex, modular GRNs. By incorporating aggressive pruning and a penalty term, the DE was able to find minimal or nearly minimal GRNs in all test problems.
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Bongard's work focuses on understanding the general nature of cognition, regardless of whether it is found in humans, animals or robots. This unique approach focuses on the role that morphology and evolution plays in cognition. Addressing these questions has taken him into the fields of biology, psychology, engineering and computer science.
Danforth is an applied mathematician interested in modeling a variety of physical, biological, and social phenomenon. He has applied principles of chaos theory to improve weather forecasts as a member of the Mathematics and Climate Research Network, and developed a real-time remote sensor of global happiness using messages from Twitter: the Hedonometer. Danforth co-runs the Computational Story Lab with Peter Dodds, and helps run UVM's reading group on complexity.
Laurent studies the interaction of structure and dynamics. His research involves network theory, statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics along with their applications in epidemiology, ecology, biology, and sociology. Recent projects include comparing complex networks of different nature, the coevolution of human behavior and infectious diseases, understanding the role of forest shape in determining stability of tropical forests, as well as the impact of echo chambers in political discussions.
Hines' work broadly focuses on finding ways to make electric energy more reliable, more affordable, with less environmental impact. Particular topics of interest include understanding the mechanisms by which small problems in the power grid become large blackouts, identifying and mitigating the stresses caused by large amounts of electric vehicle charging, and quantifying the impact of high penetrations of wind/solar on electricity systems.
Bagrow's interests include: Complex Networks (community detection, social modeling and human dynamics, statistical phenomena, graph similarity and isomorphism), Statistical Physics (non-equilibrium methods, phase transitions, percolation, interacting particle systems, spin glasses), and Optimization(glassy techniques such as simulated/quantum annealing, (non-gradient) minimization of noisy objective functions).