Meet the directors and leaders of the Center for Biomolecular Condensates.
Director, Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor of Engineering
Rohit Pappu’s lab studies polymeric phase transitions, as well as molecular-level order-disorder transitions to uncover the physical principles underlying spatial and temporal organization of proteins and nucleic acids within cells, the connections between protein phase separation and aggregation in the context of neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s disease and ALS, and the form and functions of so-called intrinsically disordered proteins. Their discoveries are driven by development and deployment of tools from the fields of polymer physics, equilibrium and non-equilibrium statistical physics, computational biophysics, biochemistry, and molecular engineering. Their goal is to uncover fundamental insights regarding biological processes at the molecular and cellular level and leverage these insights into cures for neurodegenerative disorders and cancers as well as applications in materials science and synthetic biology.
Associate Director, Associate Professor of Biology
Current research in Lucia Strader’s lab focuses on several projects using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Strader’s research is elucidating the relationships between the plant hormones auxin, abscisic acid (ABA), and ethylene, determining the role of the auxin precursor indole-3-butyric acid (IBA) in plant development, and understanding the establishment of the Outer Lateral Domain of plant cells. Animals require cell movement to determine the final form of organs. Because there is no morphogenic cell movement in plants, and because the cell wall is usually formed immediately after cell division, plant morphogenesis depends upon careful control of both cell division and cell expansion. The auxin indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) is a critical plant hormone, controlling both cell division and cell expansion and thereby orchestrating many developmental events and environmental responses.
Normal plant morphogenesis and environmental responses require modulation of auxin levels and responsiveness by interaction with other hormones, controlling biosynthesis, regulating transport, and managing storage forms. One auxin storage form of interest to the Strader lab is the side chain-lengthened compound indole-3-butyric acid (IBA), which is shortened into IAA by peroxisomal β-oxidation.
Assistant Director, Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Engineering, Staff Scientist in Biomedical Engineering
Ammon Posey’s research focuses on experimental approaches to study polyglutamine-mediated aggregation, and development and deployment of novel experimental methods to study protein phase behavior and order-disorder transitions of disordered proteins.