MacArthur Fellows Program

Erik Winfree

Computer and Materials Scientist | Class of 2000

Computer and Materials Scientist
Pasadena, California
31 at time of award
Published July 1, 2000

About Erik's Work

Erik Winfree is a leader in the emerging field of biomolecular computing.

He has incorporated recent advances in computer science, molecular biology, nanotechnology, and mathematics to create a novel approach to molecular computing.  Winfree has significantly expanded the concept of DNA computing by using naturally occurring molecules and enzymes to build non-naturally shaped DNA structures, such as branched DNA or two-dimensional sheets that have the potential to perform massively parallel computations.  He then applied these concepts by creating self-assembled DNA sheets in the laboratory.  In recent work, Winfree has proposed an alternative to encoding information in the DNA—that computations can be represented as interactions among artificial genes.  This proposal implies that biological cells are themselves computational devices and that understanding gene regulation may depend on identifying the calculations that they make.


Winfree is an assistant professor of computer science and of computation and neural systems at the California Institute of Technology.  His numerous articles have appeared in such publications as the Journal of Computational Biology, DNA Computers, and PLoS Biology.

Winfree received a B.S. (1991) from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. (1998) from the California Institute of Technology.

Last updated January 1, 2005

Select News Coverage of Erik Winfree
More Fellows

View All 2000 Fellows

Stay Informed
Sign up for periodic news updates and event invitations.

Connect with us on social media or view all of our social media content in one place.

The privacy of your data is important to us. We've updated our privacy policies in response to General Data Protection Regulation.