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We combine mathematical modeling, human stem cell genome-editing, and fluorescence microscopy to study how the actin cytoskeleton produces force to function in cellular membrane bending and trafficking processes. Our research focuses on the mechanical relationship between the actin cytoskeleton and mammalian endocytosis. We aim to identify mechanisms by which emergent architectures of cytoskeletal networks arise based on the initial positions and geometries of endocytic actin-binding proteins. We also study the mechanisms by which the cytoskeleton actively adapts to changing loads to ensure the timely completion of endocytosis. Finally, we began a collaboration across several labs to study how SARS-CoV-2 nonstructural proteins co-opt cellular membrane trafficking machinery to make double-membrane compartments necessary for viral genome replication.
Matt Akamatsu received his PhD in the department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University as the first student in Yale's Integrated Graduate Program in Physics, Engineering and Biology. He worked in Tom Pollard's lab to study the mechanisms by which by which fission yeast cells assemble and position their cytokinetic contractile ring for symmetrical cell division. He carried out postdoctoral work as an Arnold O. Beckman researcher at UC Berkeley in the department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, coadvised by Padmini Rangamani (UC San Diego) and David Drubin. There, he combined computational modeling, genome editing of human stem cells, and quantitative fluorescence microscopy to study the mechanisms by which the actin cytoskeleton organizes, produces force, and responds to resistance during mammalian endocytosis. Matt is a recipient of the K99 Pathway to Independence Award, UC Berkeley Outstanding Postdoc Award in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and the 2020 Porter Prize for Research Excellence from the American Society for Cell Biology. He starts his lab at UW in June 2022.