Cynthia H. Collins

Associate Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Cynthia Collins joined the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer in March 2008 as an assistant professor. Cynthia grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. She obtained her Honours B.Sc. in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the University of Toronto in 2000, and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from Caltech in 2006. She subsequently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Michael Surette's lab at the University of Calgary, where she was the recipient of a prestigious Alberta Ingenuity Post-Doctoral Fellowship. Communities of microorganisms are ubiquitous in nature and play important roles in processes that directly impact human life, from environmental remediation, wastewater treatment and assistance in food digestion to biofouling, biofilm-related corrosion and hospital-acquired infections. The Collins Lab focuses on fundamental and applied aspects of microbial consortia and combines multiscale modeling of biological networks (from gene to protein to organism to community), metabolic and biochemical engineering, synthetic biology and engineered cell-cell communication with the complexities of coexisting communities of bacteria. Applications range from engineering biosensors, to bioprocessing, bioremediation and bio-energy production, and may also include the development of therapeutics that specifically target the balance between good and bad bacteria in the human body.


B.S. Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics (University of Toronto, 2000) Ph.D. Chemistry and Biochemistry (California Institute of Technology, 2006) Postdoctoral: 2006-2008, University of Calgary

Research Focus
  • Synthetic Biology
  • Biochemical Engineering
  • Microbial Communities
  • Human Microbiome
  • Protein Engineering
  • Directed Evolution
  • Biofilms
Select Works
  • A synthetic Escherichia coli predator-prey ecosystem (2008)
  • Dual selection enhances the signaling specificity of a variant of the quorum-sensing transcriptional regulator LuxR (2006)
  • A synthetic multicellular system for programmed pattern formation (2006)
  • Directed evolution of Vibrio fischeri LuxR for increased sensitivity to a broad spectrum of acyl-homoserine lactones (2005)
  • Evolutionary design of genetic circuits and cell-cell communications (2003)
  • Adenosine to inosine editing by ADAR2 requires formation of a ternary complex on the GluR-B R/G site (2002)
  • Engineering proteins that bind, move, make and break DNA (2003)