RESEARCH

 

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Living systems make decisions by integrating information from their environments in order to optimize their own fitness. This decision-making process has many intricacies, with a dual nature characterized by stochasticity and determinism, and considerable effort has been dedicated to characterizing the factors contributing to cell-fate heterogeneity. Our primary goal is to determine how multiple environmental and genetic factors, some deterministic and some stochastic, impact developmental outcomes.By distilling the study of a ubiquitous and vital process into basic questions, we hope to generate new insights into how decision-making affects cellular development and differentiation in higher organisms.

We utilize high-resolution and super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, quantitative data analysis, and simple mathematical modeling to mechanistically dissect the decision-making processes and cellular dynamics at single-cell/single-molecule levels. Our favorite biological models are the lysis-lysogeny systems of bacteria and their viruses, like E. colibeing infected by paradigm phages lambda and P1. We are also interested in the infection cycle of other less explored systems, for example, ssRNA phages. By visiting these systems with higher resolution, we are able to reveal previously hidden complexities to better understand the nature of living systems.