Damien Woods is a Senior Research Fellow and Molecular Programming Fellow at Caltech. His PhD is from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and he worked as a postdoctoral scholar in Ireland and Spain. His interests include molecular self-assembly, self-replication and molecular robotics as well as a variety of theoretical topics including the computational complexity of cellular automata, small universal Turing machines, Boolean circuits and optical computers. He uses the theory of computation to understand biological, chemical and physical mechanisms.
Ongoing work includes using simulation and intrinsic universality as tools to characterize the computational power of molecular self-assembly systems, and developing a theory of active rigid-body molecular robotics. In the wet-lab he is building a simple autonomous molecular self-replicator out of DNA. Work with former students and others answers known open questions and has developed new research directions. This includes showing that the simplest known general-purpose computers (such as Rule 110 and the smallest universal Turing machines) are time-efficient, developing the computational complexity theory of biologically-inspired membrane-bound computational devices, and exploring the computational power of optical computers.