EECS500 Spring 2013 Department Seminar

Peter Thomas
Open Problems in the Capacity of Biological Signal Transduction Channels
White Bldg., Room 411
11:30am - 12:30pm
February 21, 2013

Living cells gather information about their chemical surroundings through networks of biochemical reactions dubbed "signal transduction" networks.  Despite this suggestive terminology, the quantitative analysis of signal transduction systems as communications
channels is still in its infancy.  I will review results on information processing and channel capacity for some specific signaling pathways, including the directional sensing pathway
underlying amoeboid chemotaxis (the movement of crawling cells guided by chemical gradients) and a tumor necrosis factor signaling pathway. Then I will discuss some fundamental open problems in the capacity of signaling processes mediated by binding of a generic diffusible ligand molecule to a membrane bound receptor protein, a ubiquitous part of
many signaling pathways also relevant to nanoscale communications.


Peter Thomas studied physics and philosophy as an undergraduate, conceptual foundations of science as a master's student, and mathematics as a doctoral student.  His postdoctoral experience includes four years in the computational neurobiology laboratory of Terrence Sejnowski (a Case Institute of Technology alumnus) at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.  After teaching mathematics and neuroscience at Oberlin College he joined CWRU in 2006.  He is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, with secondary appointments in Biology and Cognitive Science.