Lab Pigs · Graduate School

Dominic Scalise

In this episode, as well as telling us a lot about his research, Dominic has an exciting announcement for us at 57:53 about a new textbook being written! Jump straight to it by clicking here.

Questions? Ask them on our forum or anonymously through our form! Dominic will also be joining us again for an 'Oink Me Anything' on our forum, where you can ask him questions on pretty much anything, academic or not, so keep a lookout for the announcement!

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Join us for the first of our ‘Lab Pigs’ series, in which we talk with early career researchers on their research and journey within our field. In this episode, we chatted with Dominic Scalise. We talked a lot with Dominic about his work towards building a stored program chemical computer.

In this podcast, we found out that current chemical computers are just like the electronic computers from the 1940s, in that a computer program requires rewiring the hardware. They are small in size, error-prone, and take a long time to build. A stored program chemical computer may tackle these problems by being a robust universal circuit capable of running arbitrary algorithms, with the exact algorithm of a given computation depending on which instructions (software) are given.

Dominic then discussed his approach—building a chemical memory and then a chemical processor, possible challenges in doing so, and his vision for the future. We also talked a bit about his experiences in academia.

Dominic made a special announcement for molpigs members at the end about a grassroots project: a Molecular Programming textbook to drive the field through a collaborative approach. Stay tuned on our newsletter for more information!


Dominic Scalise is a postdoctoral scholar in Lulu Qian’s lab at Caltech. He earned his PhD in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Johns Hopkins, advised by Rebecca Schulman, and his B.S. in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley. His work focuses on developing a stored program chemical computer, and powering circuits using DNA buffer reactions.


Molecular programming extends computer science beyond electronics into chemistry, and lets humans directly program physical matter. However, chemical circuits remain arduous to program, often requiring months or years to design, implement, and debug even a single program. In stark contrast, we program modern electronics with much less effort. A critical step in simplifying electronic programming was the invention of "software" in the 1940s. I will outline how similar concepts of "chemical software", in which programs are stored in memory rather than hard coded into the connections of chemical reaction networks, could dramatically simplify the task of chemical programming. I will then discuss some reaction motifs in development which may be useful for implementing chemical software.