The science in the Kilfoil lab

Our lab studies active matter. The cell is the simplest entity that exhibits the characteristics of life, and many of these characteristics rely on the cell's mechanical properties. The cell's materials are exposed to active driving by the cell's machinery, and the materials themselves sometimes contain active, driving components that confer some surprising mechanical properties for which our physical understanding is still in the nascent stages. Thus, understanding the mechanical properties of the cell requires understanding of, and raises intriguing questions about, the nature of active matter itself. My training is in soft matter physics, and my group uses soft matter approaches to study this biophysics problem. We investigate active matter by carrying out experiments on microscopic dynamics of cellular processes that involve the cell's active materials coupled with some of the cell's most impressive driving machinery, including mitosis and gene transcription; and of in vitro reconstituted cytoskeleton and nucleoskeleton networks to quantify the mechanics of the active materials themselves. My training is in soft matter physics, and we use soft matter physics approaches for addressing these questions. We are also interested in the question of the robustness of cellular processes in the face of noise: we investigate the fidelity of gene transcription, which should inform us about the principles underlying robustness in general.
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Maria Kilfoil Lab.