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. We investigate active matter using microscopy experiments on 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 on in vitro reconstituted actin/microtubule and DNA/topology-changing enzyme networks the mechanics of the active materials themselves -- cytoskeleton and nucleoskeleton. We are also interested in questions concerning the robustness of cellular processes in the face of noise: we investigate the fidelity of gene transcription using a novel fluorescence-based reporter assay we have developed.
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Maria Kilfoil Lab.