Thomas Gregor

Professor of Physics and member of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

I am interested in providing quantitative descriptions of the rich qualitative phenomena of complex biological systems to understand how they derive from general principles. I work at the interface between physics and biology, often marrying theory and experiment. Clearly, there is something very fundamental that distinguishes inanimate from living systems, and what drives my group’s research is the belief that the same physical laws must govern both classes of systems. Life magically emerges within this framework, leading us to new areas of physics, which we seek to uncover. To make progress we pursue a physics-style approach, combining state-of-the-art experimental techniques, often developing new kinds of measurements in living systems, with sophisticated data analysis methods that allow for stringent tests of simple models and theory.

1999 Physics Master (Geneva University, Switzerland)
2001 Chemistry Master (Princeton University)
2005 Ph.D. Biophysics (Princeton University)
2006-09 JSPS Fellow (Tokyo University, Japan)
2009 Assistant Professor of Physics (Princeton University)
2015 Associate Professor of Physics (Princeton University)
2019 Professor of Physics (Princeton University)

Some more background on my path can be found here:
The Scientist Portrait (2013)
Interview (2015)
Quanta Magazine (2019)

Research Associates

Monica Skoge

Associate Research Scholar, Lecturer in Physics.

I’m interested in the dynamics and spatial patterning of cells, from the shape and movement of individual amoebae to the self-organization of a population. Amoeba, as well as similarly motile immune cells in our body, can sensitively follow chemical gradients in their environment in the process of chemotaxis to locate targets and organize in space. To move efficiently, initially round cells polarize and establish a defined front and rear, but strikingly this polarity can be rapidly reorganized in response to external cues. How do cells achieve this plasticity? Similarly, an impressive large-scale organization capable of rapid rearrangement also occurs at the population level during the aggregation of amoebae to form a multicellular state. My research combines microfluidics and microscopy with physical modeling to reverse engineer the underlying dynamical systems through precise and dynamic manipulation of the chemical cues in their environment.

Netta Haroush

Postdoctoral Research Associate

I am interested in how function and order emerge from complex and inherently stochastic living systems, involving multiple interacting components. These systems are often described as biological networks: from neural networks underlying our mental perception and physical action; through regulatory gene networks orchestrating differential gene expression patterns over time and tissues, while all cells are subject to the same genetic content. The early fruit fly embryo provides a simple, yet, rich example where a regulatory gene network is responsible for structural pattern formation, determining the head-tail axis of a fly within the first few hours of development. My current projects focus on perturbing this network, such that a single node is being eliminated at a time. I Combine high-throughput quantitative measurements of protein expression patterns with computational approaches to gain new insights on different aspects of how this network carries its functions: from writing and decoding of positional information, to probing the network interactions, exploring gene dosage sensitivity, and more.


Sergey Ryabichko

Postdoctoral Research Associate

I am fascinated how particular sequences of nucleotides comprise binding sites for certain transcription factors that interact with them precisely in space and time. Those sequences are known as cis-regulatory elements. The frequency and duration of such interactions might lead to or be a consequence of a dynamic shaping of the genomic structure and changes in physical distances between the elements. Physical distances have some correlation with genomic distances, but not always, as multiple components are at play. Those components have different physicochemical properties, and my ambition is to uncover mechanisms of gene transcription regulation through the prism of quantification of physical parameters of the four-dimensional organization of the genome.

Rahul Munshi

Postdoctoral Research Associate/CPBF Fellow

During my Ph.D. in Physics, I was introduced to probing and perturbing molecular biological processes, giving rise to quantifiable, correlated outcomes at the organismal level. I have ever since been fascinated by how precision arises out of the inherently stochastic processes of life. My long-term goal is to decipher the common rules of biological information dissemination, processing, and storage. I joined the Gregor lab to build on the strong foundation the group has developed on the biophysical and technical aspects of studying Drosophila embryos as a biological system for physics-style investigation. I seek to gain a better understanding of the temporal dynamics of genetic interactions in live embryos, and their role in determining the precision of pattern formation. I am also interested in understanding the functional aspects of chromatin dynamics and identify how molecular events induce conformational modifications on chromatin architecture, and how that influences transcription during the highly dynamic early developmental stages.

Michal Levo

Postdoctoral Research Associate/EMBO Fellow/HFSP Fellow

The proper progression of development and differentiation relies on complex spatiotemporal regulation of gene expression. This is beautifully demonstrated in the early Drosophila embryo, where, within 2-3 hours, gene expression patterns restricted in time and space, give rise to a blueprint of the adult fly. Complementing my background in high-throughput genomic approaches, I am interested in developing and employing live-imaging technics established in the Gregor lab. By coupling these with genome editing, and quantitative analysis, I hope to capture dynamic properties of gene expression regulation and advance our mechanistic understanding; bridging the gap between microscopic processes and pattern formation.

Benjamin Zoller

Postdoctoral Research Associate/SNF Fellow

Across the tree of life, it is extraordinary that the development of entire organisms occurs at remarkably high precision given that the underlying molecular processes are inherently noisy. The embryo of the fruit fly presents the ideal system to tackle the consequences of transcriptional noise on cell fate organization during development. I am interested in understanding how precise macro-scale expression patterns emerge from discontinuous transcription at individual nuclei and explore the physical limits of the patterning system in the Drosophila embryo. During my Ph.D., I focused on the stochastic transcriptional kinetics of mammalian genes and its impact on the noise. I developed biophysically-rooted methods to infer transcriptional kinetics from time-lapse measurements of short-lived bioluminescent reporters in single cells. The purpose of my current research is to characterize the transcriptional dynamics of patterning genes from the imaging of single nuclei and elucidate the regulatory mechanisms that permit high precision patterning in early Drosophila embryos.

Anand Singh

Postdoctoral Research Associate

During early fly development, cell fate determination is highly reproducible and tightly controlled by transcription factors (TF). Cells respond to change of a TF in both spatially and temporal manner, which leads to specific cell fate. It raises mechanistic issues, such as how cells interpret highly dynamic levels of TF and how this will lead to further gene expression patterns during fly development. To answer these exciting questions, we are developing new quantitative biophysical tools to manipulate the concentration or the availability of TFs in space and time. The project aims to shed light on the dynamic reprogramming of transcriptional activity that facilitates cells to specify their fate in the changing environment.

Graduate Students

Po-Ta Chen

QCB Graduate Student, Princeton University

I have a broad interest in understanding gene regulation at different scales. In my current study, I’ve been focusing on optimizing fluorescent microscopy to measure important physical parameters of transcription processes from living Drosophila embryos. I aim to build up a multiscale model that links upstream transcription activator dynamics to the downstream promoter and RNA Pol II activities, hoping to establish a quantitative ground toward understanding more complicated phenomena such as gene regulatory networks or pattern formation in developmental systems.


Lev Barinov

Molecular Biology Graduate Student, Princeton University

I am a Ph.D. student in Molecular Biology and part of the Rutgers RWMS/Princeton MD/Ph.D. program. I earned my undergraduate degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University with a focus on digital signal processing and machine learning. I’ve remained interested in being able to model and understand complex systems to elucidate their underlying properties and mechanisms. In the Gregor lab, my primary focus has been on characterizing the spatiotemporal architecture of the genome and its relevance to biological function.

Fernando Rossine

QCB Graduate Student, Princeton University
Fernando is interested in how population structure conditions the evolution of decision-making processes. In the search for answers, he has been probing the surprisingly intellectual amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. He has earned both his Bachelor’s degree in Biology and his Master’s degree in Ecology from the University of São Paulo. His Master’s thesis explored through computational approaches the relation between spatial patterning and speciation rates.

Former TGLab Members

Hongtao Chen  Postdoc/Revson Fellow (now ShanghaiTech – website)

Julien Dubuis  Physics Graduate Student  (now Boston Consulting Group)

Hernan Garcia  Dicke Fellow  (now Professor at UC Berkeley – website)

Albert Lin  Physics Undergraduate  (Harvard Graduate Student, now LSI Fellow)

Shawn Little  Postdoc/HHMI Fellow  (now Professor at UPenn – website)

Feng Liu  Postdoc  (now Professor at Peking University – website)

Mariela Petkova  Physics Undergraduate  (Harvard Graduate Student, now postdoc – website)

Fernando Rossine  EEB Graduate Student  (now postdoc at Harvard)

Martin Scheeler  Physics Undergraduate  (ChicagoU Graduate Student)

Allyson Sgro  NSRA and BWF Fellow  (now Professor at Boston University – website)

Eric Smith  Physics Graduate Student  (now Data Scientist)

Mikhail Tikhonov  Physics Graduate Student  (now Professor at Washington University – website)

Darvin Yi  Physics Undergraduate  (now Computer Science Graduate Student at Stanford University)