Research

We carry out research at the intersection of biophysics, cell biology and nanotechnology. We are interested in understanding how DNA, proteins and lipids self-organize in bacterial cells and give rise to structures with different biological functions. The specific questions which we address are:

How are chromosomal foci and cell division proteins positioned in bacterial cell?

How are replication and segregation of chromosomes coordinated with cell division?

How robust are these cellular processes to perturbations in cell shape?

We are interested in finding answers to these questions based on experiments and quantitatively explaining underlying processes based on models of statistical mechanics, polymer physics and theory of elasticity.

In experiments, we combine high resolution optical microscopy, quantitative image analysis, molecular biology techniques and microchip engineering. We study Escherichia coli as a model organism. We are interested in regular rod-shaped E. coli (above left) but also on cells which shapes are strongly perturbed (above right). To grow these very irregular shaped cells we place E. coli into nanofabriacted channels (like the one below). The width of the channels is narrower than the bacterial diameter and therefore deform the bacteria. The deformation and associated strain lead to gradual rearrangements in bacterial cell wall growth patterns by yet to be identified mechanism.  

 

In addition to experiments, we model cellular processes using Molecular Dynamics and Monte Carlo simulations. Our interest is to build a system level understanding of bacterial DNA organization (bottom left) and self-assembly process of cell division proteins (bottom right).