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How is a cell created from its molecular constituents? Individual proteins are typically only a few nanometers in size. Without a blueprint or an architect, these tiny molecular parts organize themselves in a dynamic and self-correcting manner to form precise cellular structures that may be four or five orders of magnitude larger. Understanding the proper spatial and temporal arrangement of macromolecules in cells, the large-scale coordination of their functions, and the choreography of their movements requires the discovery of organizational principles and mechanisms that work at a cellular scale, over the rapid time-frames consistent with life processes.
The research of our group explores the mechanics and dynamics of cell self-organization and movement in a variety of cells ranging from bacteria to fish skin cells. Our current work focuses on three areas: 1) the actin-based motility of intracellular bacterial pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes, 2) the whole-cell crawling of epithelial cells and leukocytes, and related processes such as phagocytosis in macrophages, and 3) the dynamics of cellular organization in bacteria and diatoms. A strength of our work is its highly interdisciplinary nature, bridging cell biology, microbiology, and biophysics. By studying diverse questions in diverse biological systems, using both bottom-up approaches (biochemical reconstitution, single-molecule force measurements, mathematical modeling) and top-down approaches (genetic and pharmacological perturbations, quantitative video-based analysis of cell movement, shape, and mechanical coupling), we aim to develop a broad conceptual understanding of the organizational rules that give rise to large-scale cell structure and coordinated movement.
1988: B.S. Biology (Course 7), B.S. Physics (Course 8), Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1993: Ph.D. Cell Biology, University of California at San Francisco
1993 - 1997: Whitehead Fellow, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
1997 - 2005: Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine
2005 - 2012: Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine
2012 - 2018: Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine
2018 - present: Professor, Department of Biology, University of Washington