Mesoscopic biomaterials

We use principles of soft condensed matter physics to investigate interesting biological materials or processes. Typically, we connect how small-scale (usually microscopic) characteristics or behaviors lead to large-scale phenomena. We often find emergent behavior in which the large-scale phenomenon arises from collective interactions of small processes that cannot be easily expected a priori.

For many of the biological materials that we investigate in the lab, we first see the appearance of these emergent behaviors on the “mesco-scale”. We define this as a lengthscale that connects the very microscope (~nm) and macroscopic (>mm).

When we choose to investigate a material, we focus on materials which are relevant or important. Most recently, we have been studying protein condensates which are proteins that form liquids and are crucial in numerous important biological processes such as transcription, cancer, neurodegeneration, RNA metabolism, signal transduction, and many other processes. In the past, we have also studied networks formed of stiff biopolymers and how cells transverse or modify these networks; these materials are particularly important for understanding cancer cell metastasis and blood coagulation.