Hi! My name is Gizem, I'm a synthetic biologist and architect, focusing on self-organization by design in both social and biological systems.
After having explored the top-down design of bottom-up self-organizing dynamics in human social systems (in architecture school, through projects at the human & urban scales), I have now in grad school been focusing on top-down design of bottom-up self-organization in synthetic biological systems (through projects at the cellular & tissue scales), with the ultimate goal of developing self-constructing biological architectures by design.
Personal Research Manifesto for the
Top-down Design of Bottom-up Self-organization in Biological Systems
Construction in nature is a self-organizing process governed by a set of construction rules embodied within the builders themselves (cells, termites, wasps...) that unfold as these builders interact with one another and their environment. Furthermore, these builders can self-replicate, and in the process, they propagate these embodied construction rules to their progeny, facilitating the bottom-up self-construction of the biological architectures we see in and around us through an unmatched sophistication of decentralized control, spatial computation, and material composition.
Take, for example, the development of an embryo from that initial single "seed" cell. Within its merely ten microns-wide nucleus, this initial building block of the embryo encapsulates a two meters-long DNA strand, where physically encoded are the instructions required to build a dynamic, multicellular living structure with massively complex structural, functional, and material properties.
This seemingly magical self-construction process of nature is in stark contrast to the traditional construction methods humans have been using for millennia to build diverse architectures, from the primitive hut to the New York skyline. Enchanted by this dichotomy between bottom-up vs top-down construction in nature vs culture, I began taking a closer look at how these self-construction processes unfold in nature, and came to the transformative understanding that beneath nature’s magic, there is in fact a tremendous amount of logic. Furthermore, we now may be able to engineer this underlying logical framework, through tools of synthetic morphogenesis, and thereby harness nature as a rational design medium for architecture.
This realization has forever changed my path as an architect and designer. It meant that by using the principles of human-developed top-down design, we now may be able to steer natural biological self-construction processes towards rationally designed ends, and thereby build self-constructing living architectures by design.
This passion has empowered me since 2015 to build up my biology knowledge and wetlab skills from ground up, first through a master's degree in Synthetic Biology, then a PhD in Developmental Biology. The more time I spend exploring and forging this path forward, the more I realize how the top-down control of nature’s bottom-up morphogenetic power in this way is giving rise to a new design frontier, one that brings the best of both worlds: bottom-up autonomous construction and top-down rational design. Now, as an architect and synthetic biologist, my intellectual passion is to further explore and forge this new frontier and develop synthetic biological structures that can predictably build themselves into target morphologies by design.