Sequencing a Genome by a Torrent of Ions: How an Old pH-Meter Got Its Groove Back

By Muhammad A. Alam

Electrical and Computer Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

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The ability to read the book of life, written in the genome of an organism, has been one of the most exciting development of our time. The first version of human genome was announced circa 2000 and it took a decade of industrial-scale collaboration and billions of dollars of funding. Today, we do the same for a few hundred dollars, and in a few hours time. In merely 10 years, the reactors that covered a football field has been reduced to the size of a postage-stamp. I will explain how a synthesis of electronics and biotechnology, especially the use of electronic biosensor made of i-phone scale transistors, has made this fantastic development possible.


Muhammad Asharaf Alam Professor Alam teaches Electrical Engineering at Purdue University, where his research focuses on the physics, simulation, characterization and technology of classical and novel semiconductor devices. From 1995 to 2001, he was with Bell Laboratories, Mrray Hill, NJ, as a Member of Technical Staff in the Silicon ULSI Research Department. From 2001 to 2003, he was a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Agere Systems, Murray Hill, NJ. He joined Purdue University in 2004. Dr. Alam has published over 200 papers in international journals and has presented many invited and contributed talks at international conferences. He is a fellow of IEEE, American Physical Society, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, and recipient of 2006 IEEE Kiyo Tomiyasu Award for contributions to device technology for communication systems.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Muhammad A. Alam (2014), "Sequencing a Genome by a Torrent of Ions: How an Old pH-Meter Got Its Groove Back,"

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