In vivo biophysics of signaling and behavior

Group leader: Prof. dr. Tom Shimizu

We are searching for motivated students and postdocs to join our group

Living cells sense and respond to their environment by an intricate web of molecular interactions. Inasmuch as their designs are dictated by the problems they solve, such networks can be considered primitive algorithms derived by natural selection.

We aim to link the temporal dynamics of intracellular signaling networks to the constraints imposed by behavioral performance and evolution.  Can naturally evolved systems be understood in the same language that engineers use to design machines for a specific purpose? Or are there fundamental design principles peculiar to the continuously evolving biological world? How plastic are these signaling algorithms over evolutionary time scales? Microbes can serve as an excellent vehicle for probing such questions, as the time scales involved in signaling, behavior and evolution are all amenable to laboratory experiments.

We combine experiment with theory to tackle these problems. Fluorescence microscopy and spectroscopy techniques allow us to probe molecular responses to dynamically varying chemical stimuli in living cells. Such physiological measurements constrain mechanistic models of signaling, the parameter space of which can be explored again experimentally by genetic alterations of the organism. We are also designing microfluidic chambers in which behavior of individual cells and populations can be interrogated by video microscopy, to link specific signaling network topologies and parameter sets to behavioral performance.

  • New 3D tracking technique “for the masses” reveals individuality of bacterial behavior

    Read more

  • Tom Shimizu appointed professor at VU University Amsterdam

    As of September 1st, 2015 AMOLF group leader Tom Shimizu has been appointed professor of ‘Experimental Physics of Behavior’ at the VU University Amsterdam. Shimizu’s research focuses on the physical …

    Read more

  • Katja Taute wins award for outstanding talk

    AMOLF postdoc Katja Taute (Systems Biology and Biophysics research groups) has won the award for outstanding postdoctoral talk at the BLAST XIII conference  (13th International Conference on Bacterial Locomotion and …

    Read more

  • Physical origins of randomness in a primitive brain

    Read more

Read more news articles