David received AB and MS degrees (2002) in Computer Science from Harvard, and a PhD degree (2008) in Computation and Neural Systems from Caltech, where his advisor was Erik Winfree. His dissertation on "Self-assembly, Molecular automata, and Chemical Reaction Networks" was awarded the Milton and Francis Clauser Doctoral Prize for the best doctoral thesis at Caltech (2008). He was a Computing Innovation Fellow at the University of Washington, Computer Science & Engineering, and he is currently a Fellow at the UCSF Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology.
His early work in self-assembly showed the surprising power of simple crystallization-like processes to construct algorithmically complex objects. Later, he helped invent the technology of DNA strand displacement cascades for building de novo molecular networks. He co-authored the first experimental demonstration of molecular logic circuits with strand displacement, and developed a theory for implementing complex analog behaviors. He received the Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology (Theory) from the Foresight Institute (2012) for this work.