Using physics to study life

My laboratory is interested in problems at the interface of physics and biology. The main thrust of our research is the design of new experimental approaches and the performance of high-precision physics-style measurements in living animals, such that our data allows for direct validation of mathematical models. This program is aimed at the generation of theories describing biological phenomena which are derived from general principles in the physics tradition. Currently our main interests lie in the collective behaviors of eukaryotic cells all the way from microbes to embryonic tissue, and in how the control of gene expression in early fly embryos leads to the formation of an animal body plan. We are making experimental and theoretical progress on the biological questions in each of these areas, the long-term goal, however, is to find theories inspired by experimental data that go beyond the specifics of the biological systems with the hope of finding in the living world some new physics, which has been hidden and cannot easily be revealed in the inanimate world. The approach outlined here is is an extension of the traditional physics approach, which my colleagues use to study the stars or inert matter on earth, to the complex processes underlying the living world.

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