Systems Biological Engineering Lab

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Principal investigator:

Stephen S. Fong, Ph.D.
Phone: (804) 827-7038
Lab: Room 439

The evolutionary engineering lab has a foundation in systems biology and applies this approach to studying basic biological and applied aspects of evolutionary biology. Specific research interests currently include:

  • Microbial evolution – dynamics and mechanisms of biological adaptation

  • Metabolic engineering – microbial strain design and construction for chemical production

  • Molecular evolution – directed protein evolution to modify enzyme function

  • Computational biology – modeling and simulation of biological organisms and processes

Research in our group uses a combination of computational and experimental approaches. Computationally, a constraint-based modeling approach is used to create whole-cell models to simulate and to predict biological function. Experimentally, molecular biology, experimental evolution and high-throughput data are used to investigate different aspects of microbial functionality. These methods are analogous in their ability to study the complexity and interconnectedness of biological systems that is fundamental to the systems biology approach. Together, the combination of computational and experimental approaches represents an emerging paradigm of biological research of experimental discovery facilitated by computational prediction and hypothesis generation.

Research progress from this approach in our lab has led to new insights into mechanisms involved in biological adaptation and a novel approach to metabolic engineering and strain design. One of our long-term goals is to implement these techniques to health-related topics such as studying and understanding evolution of viruses and pathogens.


  • Spectrophotometer

  • Thermal cycler

  • Gene pulser

  • High-performance liquid chromatography

  • Gene expression chips

  • Microplate reader