Research

Sydney Brenner supposedly opened a symposium in celebration of structural biology at the storied LMB by claiming: ‘I think we can all agree that hydrogen bonds and beta-pleated sheets are boring’. We remind ourselves of this legend whenever we discuss which of life’s mysteries we want to explore following the Resolution Revolution in cryoEM. We can now determine atomic structures of just about anything, and often in multiple conformations, but we didn’t come here to collect structures. “Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees” - and each of our projects started with this optimism: structural biology is discovery biology. Our efforts to resolve life’s machinery will teach us how living matter works and, with some luck, may shed light on how living molecules emerged.

Our lab primarily seeks to understand the mechanisms governing the shape, connectivity, and topology of intracellular organelles. We study how cooperative interactions between lipids and proteins produce the myriad of membrane-delimited compartments within eukaryotic cells and their functions. We also seek to understand the quality control mechanisms that determine whether ribosomes initiate mRNA translation, and following initiation, whether they complete translation normally or degrade protein syntheis products to preserve proteostasis.

Our sources of support are listed in chronological order below, starting with the lab opening in the summer of 2011. We wouldn’t be here without them and the vision they share with Mary Lasker (“If you think research is expensive, try disease”). The diversity in our sources of support and in the range of questions we are investigating is part design, part serendipity. Our lab believes in ecological edge effects: including increased dynamism and imagination in communities that have adapted to survive within the overlap between two or more habitats.

Projects and Support