Research

Our interdisciplinary research group works towards understanding the rules that govern protein self-assembly into dynamic reversible fluid phases as well as pathological aggregates associated with neurodegenerative disease.

Our team tackles these questions with an innovative multi-scale approach, combining single molecule fluorescence tools with soft matter material science methodology, and C. elegans genetics.

Liquid Phase Separation

Under certain conditions, proteins can phase separate from solution into condensed phase liquid droplets analogous to oil droplets in water. We are interested in understanding the fundamental biophysical and material principles underlying the assembly and dynamics of protein liquid phase separation.

Protein droplets raining down onto a coverslip upon induction of phase separation

Protein droplets dissolving upon reversal of phase separating conditions

Neurodegeneration

We are particularly interested in understanding the relationship between protein liquid phases and pathological protein aggregates associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Under what conditions will a protein form a functional, dynamic liquid state versus a pathological fibrous tangle or plaque? How are these states related and (mis)regulated as a function of age? Understanding the mechanism of protein assembly into diverse material states will offer much needed insight into the origin and potential rescue from aberrant protein assembly associated with neurodegenerative disease.