From Scientific American:Belcher_1

Angela Belcher of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has turned to nature for assistance. Belcher has pioneered the use of custom-evolved viruses in synthesizing nano-scale wires and arrays, fusing different research disciplines into something uniquely her own.

Belcher got her start with abalone, a cousin to oysters. The mollusk had evolved a system for accreting a hard shell from calcium carbonate, the same material of which chalk is made. As a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Belcher elucidated the molecular assembly scheme abalone employed to grow its shell and tweaked a key protein to accelerate the growth process. Soon head of her own lab, she was standing on her desk one day, pondering the periodic table of elements and wondering how far she could push nature’s ability to manipulate inorganic elements.

Abalone had learned to control calcium. She decided that she would teach nature to work with the rest of the list. “The aim is to work our way through the whole periodic table and be able to design materials of all kinds in a controlled way. My biggest goal is to have a DNA sequence that can code for the synthesis of any useful material,” she told MIT’s Technology Review.

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