Tuesday, April 18

Mustafa Khammash, Professor of Control Theory and Systems Biology, Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich

Humans have been influencing the DNA of plants and animals for thousands of years through selective breeding. Yet it is only over the last 3 decades or so that we have gained the ability to manipulate the DNA itself and directly alter its sequences through the modern tools of genetic engineering. This led to the efficient production of protein products and the development of novel gene therapies, and revolutionized biotechnology and biomedicine. It has also has ushered in the new era of synthetic biology where several new gene arrangements with interacting protein products can be constructed in living cells. This makes possible the synthetic construction of new genetic circuits with improved or entirely new function. The promise of the field is that circuits thus built can be composed into devices and systems, with unlimited expansion potential.

Among the possible applications enabled by synthetic biology is the design and engineering of feedback control systems that steer the dynamic behavior of living cells in real time. Such controllers can be implemented on a computer and interfaced with living cells especially engineered to sense control inputs and respond to them. Alternatively the control systems may themselves be genetically engineered into living cells as networks of biomolecules that achieve feedback function when interfaced with endogenous networks. We refer to the set of methods to design and build such control systems and the resulting technology as Cybergenetics—a genetics era realization of Norbert Wiener’s cybernetics vision. In this talk, we present our ideas on the design and synthesis of cybergenetic control systems and discuss the main theoretical and practical challenges in their design and implementation. We also explain the potential impact such cybergenetic systems can have on industrial biotechnology and medical therapy.

Mustafa Khammash is currently the Professor for Control Theory and Systems Biology and Head of the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich. He is a control theorist, widely known for his work in control theory and systems biology. He received his B.S. degree from Texas A&M University in 1986 and his PhD from Rice University in 1990, both in electrical engineering. In 1990, he joined the engineering faculty of Iowa State University, where he created the Dynamics an Control Program and led the control group until 2002. He then joined the engineering faculty at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), where he was Director of the Center for Control, Dynamical Systems and Computation (CCDC) until 2011 when he joined ETH Zurich.

Working at the interface of systems biology, synthetic biology, and control theory, Khammash develops novel theoretical and computational methods for the modeling, analysis, and control of biological systems. He has also been developing theory and methods for cybergenetics–a new area focused on the analysis and design of control systems for steering cellular dynamics in a prescribed manner, with applications envisaged for biotechnology and biotherapy.

Khammash is a Fellow of the IEEE, IFAC, and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). He is the recipient of the ETH Golden Owl Award, the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, the Iowa State University Foundation Early Achievement in Research and Scholarship Award, the ISU College of Engineering Young Faculty Research Award.

Wednesday, April 19

Wei Zhao, President of the University of Macau

Major Challenges for IoT Development
The Internet of Things (IoT) is an emerging paradigm that seamlessly integrates a large amount of smart objects, interlinking the physical and the cyber worlds and keeping them in a tight and continuous interaction. Consequently, the IoT is expected to become a global networking infrastructure for cyber-physical systems. As such, the IoT is an exciting, broad, and nascent area spanning a multitude of scientific research communities as well as several areas of applied industrial research and development. With the introduction of this exciting new paradigm, a variety of new problems and challenges present themselves. Traditional resolutions used to address the Internet are insufficient to solve these unprecedented issues. In this talk, we will discuss four major technical challenges for IoT development; namely, sensing devices and systems, interconnecting technologies, addressing and search schemes, and effective data sharing methods.


An internationally renowned scholar, Professor Wei Zhao has been serving as the eighth Rector (i.e., President) of the University of Macau since 2008. Before joining the University of Macau, Professor Zhao served as the Dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the U.S., Director for the Division of Computer and Network Systems in the U.S. National Science Foundation, and Senior Associate Vice President for Research at Texas A&M University. Professor Zhao completed his undergraduate studies in physics at Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an, China, in 1977, and received his MSc and PhD degrees in Computer and Information Sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1983 and 1986, respectively. During his academic career, he has also served as a faculty member at Shaanxi Normal University, Amherst College, the University of Adelaide, Texas A&M University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Professor Zhao has made significant contributions in the field of cyber-physical systems. His research group has received numerous awards for outstanding work in CPS, including the outstanding paper award from the IEEE International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems, the best paper award from the IEEE National Aerospace and Electronics Conference, an award on technology transfer from the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency, and the best paper award from the IEEE International Communication Conference. As the CNS Division Director of NSF between 2005 and 2007, he led the community and initiated very first funding program in CPS. In 2011, he was named by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China as the Chief Scientist of the national 973 Internet of Things Project.

In recognition of his outstanding achievements in science and higher education, Professor Zhao was awarded the Lifelong Achievement Award by the Chinese Association of Science and Technology in 2005. In 2007, he was honored with the Overseas Achievement Award by the Chinese Computer Federation. Professor Zhao has been conferred honorable doctorates by twelve universities in the world and academician by the International Eurasian Academy of Sciences.

Thursday, April 20

Claire Tomlin, Charles A. Desoer Chair in the College of Engineering, Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, UC Berkeley

Towards safe learning in semi-autonomous systems
A great deal of research in recent years has focused on learning in autonomous systems.  In many applications, guarantees that specifications are satisfied throughout the learning process are paramount. For the safety specification, we present a controller synthesis technique based on the computation of reachable sets, with fast computation using a new decoupling procedure.  We then present a toolbox of methods combining reachability with data-driven techniques inspired by machine learning, to enable performance improvement while maintaining safety. We illustrate these “safe learning” methods on our UAV experimental platforms at Berkeley.

Claire Tomlin is the Charles A. Desoer Professor of Engineering in EECS at Berkeley. She was an Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor in Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford from 1998-2007, and in 2005 joined Berkeley. Claire works in the area of control theory and learning for hybrid systems, with applications to UAV systems, robotics, air traffic management, systems biology, and energy systems.  Claire is the recipient of the 2017 IEEE Transportation Technologies Award, and she is a 2006 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, and an IEEE Fellow (2010).  She holds an honorary doctorate from KTH.