The scientific goals of the Institute require new approaches to studying the properties of living organisms. To promote innovation and creativity, the Institute uses the gift of $35 million from Peter B. Lewis, Class of 1955, to provide very generous salary and research support for early career scientists at the beginning of their independent research careers. The intent of this program is to release these scientists from the requirement to raise their own grant support, and to encourage risk taking in their research.
The program is used to attract early career scientists to the Institute with diverse backgrounds and exceptional promise, people who will eventually populate the new interdisciplinary field of integrative genomics. They are largely drawn from the ranks of recent Ph.D. graduates, and conduct their independent research under the mentorship of the Institute. Appointments are for a non-renewable term of 5 years. The Institute provides an exceptional, one-of-a-kind interdisciplinary environment and research funds for these term appointments.
In addition, the Lewis-Sigler Fellows play an important role in the undergraduate teaching mission of the Institute, developing the laboratory components and running the precepts for the Integrated Science Curriculum.
Dr. Baryshnikova studies biological networks and their role in determining cellular phenotypes. In many model organisms, such as, for example, the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, nearly all genes have been scrutinized from a myriad of different angles. However, despite the availability of this incredible wealth of data, we still have little understanding of how genes interact with one another to carry out fundamental cellular functions and respond to external stimuli. The goal of Dr. Baryshnikova's research is to construct a global unified picture of the functional organization of a simple eukaryotic cell by computationally integrating hundreds of different genomic and proteomic datasets. This global cellular network would serve as a repository for our collective knowledge and a model for more complex cellular systems.
263 Carl Icahn Laboratory
Dr. Broedersz is interested in the physical properties and self-assembly of biological structures such as tissue and the cellular cytoskeleton. He uses tools from soft matter physics and statistical mechanics to develop a quantitative understanding of the mechanical behavior of such systems to elucidate the function of this behavior in various biological processes.
Dr. Calhoun is interested in the underlying mechanisms of drug-membrane and membrane-membrane interactions. Fungal and bacterial membranes are attractive drug targets as they provide a protective barrier between the cell and its environment and control the transport of ions and molecules into and out of the cell, but the engineering of novel drugs is limited by an incomplete understanding of how drug molecules react to different biological environments. To study these systems in living cells, the Calhoun lab uses advanced nonlinear optical microscopy techniques including second harmonic generation and pump-probe.
Dr. Leifer studies how a small number of neurons in a simple nervous system can encode complex behaviors. To understand the interplay between neural activity and behavior, it is critical to work in an awake animal that is free to move and interact with its environment. Dr. Leifer has pioneered optogenetic microscopy techniques to manipulate and monitor neural activity, with cellular resolution, in freely moving nematodes(worms) called C. elegans. The Leifer group uses these tools to study how patterns of activity in the nematode neural network drive locomotion, navigation, timing and sensation.
263 Carl Icahn Laboratory
Dr. Machta is broadly interested in the statistical physics of biological systems. The cellular program is carried out by proteins at a scale where thermal fluctuations can be enormous. How does the cell overcome and even take advantage of this noisy environment? Experiments have shown that cells tune their membranes to the proximity of a 2D liquid-liquid critical point, where thermal composition fluctuations become both spatially extended and long lived. Dr. Machta uses tools from statistical physics and information theory to unravel the implications of this critical point for cellular function.
Dr. McClean studies the design principles underlying the signal processing capabilities of biological networks. Cellular signaling networks transmit information about environmental stimuli to the interior of the cell where appropriate cellular responses take place. How these networks process their input dictates cellular behavior and fitness. She is interested in how signaling pathways and transcriptional networks are designed to appropriately filter input and set thresholds so that cells respond optimally to changes in their environment. She is also interested in understanding how these networks are adapted and fine-tuned throughout development (short timescale) or evolution (long timescale). Her lab takes an experimental approach combining microfluidics with microscopy to monitor the responses of signaling pathways to complex stimuli.
Dr. Noyes focuses on the use of traditional methods as well as the development of new techniques to provide a better understanding of how proteins and DNA interact with one another. By doing so he hopes to provide a greater understanding of the complex networks that control what genes are expressed in any given cell type under any given condition. In addition, he uses these same tools to engineer novel DNA-binding proteins to specify desired sequences of DNA. These artificial factors can be used to target activators or repressors to site-specifically control gene expression as well as make targeted genomic modifications for therapeutic and experimental applications.