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McKelvey School of Engineering

Brown School

SMARC Center Launch

Thursday, April 18 | 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Uncas A. Whitaker Hall, Room 100
6760 Forest Park Pkwy, St. Louis, MO 63105, USA

You are invited to the launch of the Synthetic Biology Manufacturing of Advanced Materials Research Center (SMARC).

Location: Uncas A. Whitaker Hall, Room 100
6760 Forest Park Pkwy, St. Louis, MO 63105, USA

8-9 a.m. — Welcome Breakfast
Whitaker Hall, Atrium

9–9:15 a.m. — Welcome
Dean Aaron Bobick and Provost Beverly Wendland 

9:15–10 a.m. — Opening Remarks and SMARC’s mission and progress
Professors Fuzhong Zhang and Marcus Foston

10–10:50 a.m. — Keynote Presentation
Title: Artificial Intelligence Driven Discovery Connects Scales, Disciplines, and Modalities  
Markus Buehler, Professor in Engineering and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Abstract: For centuries, researchers have sought out ways to connect disparate areas of knowledge. With the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), we can now rigorously explore relationships that cut across distinct areas – such as, mechanics and biology, or science and art – to deepen our understanding and to accelerate innovation. Through the use of novel AI algorithms we blur the boundary between physics-based and data-driven modeling through a series of physics-inspired multimodal graph-based generative AI models, set forth in a hierarchical multi-agent mixture-of-experts framework. The design of these models follows a biologically inspired approach where we endow AI systems with the capability to reason about their own structure and to dynamically rearrange themselves to improve their utility to solve certain tasks, thereby implementing a manifestation of the universality-diversity-principle that has long served as a powerful paradigm in mechanobiology. This new generation of models is applied to the analysis and design of materials, specifically to understand, discover, mimic and improve upon biological principles in the context of bionanomechanics. Applied specifically to protein engineering, the talk will cover case studies covering distinct scales, from silk, to collagen, to biomineralized materials, as well as applications to medicine, food and agriculture where materials design is critical to achieve performance targets.

11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. — Research Perspectives Session I.

Moderator: Guy Genin (Washington University)
11–11:30 a.m.: Distinguished speaker – Dr. Javier Read de Alaniz (University of California, Santa Barbara)
11:30–12:00 p.m.: Distinguished speaker – Dr. Mark Mba-Wright (Iowa State University
12–12:30 p.m.: Distinguished speaker – Dr. Jonathan Pokorski (UCSD)

2:30–4 p.m. — Research Perspectives Session II.

Moderator: Fuzhong Zhang (Washington University)
2:30–3:00 p.m.: Distinguished speaker – Dr. Sinan Keten (Northwestern University)
3–3:30 p.m.: Distinguished speaker – Dr. Neel Joshi (Northeastern University)
3:30–4:00 p.m.: Distinguished speaker – Dr. Melik Demirel (Penn State University)

4:15–5:15 p.m. — Panel: Future Synthetic Biology and Biomanufacturing for High-Performance Materials, Consumer Products and Next-Generation Material Applications.

Moderator: Marcus Foston (Washington University)
Panelists: Dr. Gayle Bentley (DOE BETO), Dr. David Breslauer (Bolt Threads), Dr. Joshua Orlicki (DEVCOM-Army Research Laboratory), Dr. Lynn Rothschild (Brown University), Dr. Vamsi Yadavalli (NSF CBET)

5:15–5:30 p.m. — Closing Remarks

5:30–6 p.m. — Reception

SMARC’s mission is to push the frontiers of knowledge through convergent research; develop pathways to train a manufacturing workforce; leverage an environment of diversity; and enhance innovation in the manufacturing of synthetic biological materials.

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations


McKelvey School of Engineering


Science & Technology

Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering
Event Contact


Speaker Information

Markus J. Buehler is the McAfee Professor of Engineering at MIT. Professor Buehler pursues new modeling, design and manufacturing approaches for advanced biomaterials that offer greater resilience and a wide range of controllable properties from the nano- to the macroscale. He received many distinguished awards, including the Feynman Prize, the ASME Drucker Medal, the J.R. Rice Medal, and many others. Buehler is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.  

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