Arthur Lander, M.D., Ph.D. | University of California, Irvine

"Control Strategies in Morphogenesis"

Abstract: Organisms not only create form, they control it: pre-specified shapes, sizes, and proportions are reliably obtained even in the face of considerable noise and uncertainty.  In engineering, the only strategy that can compensate for truly unpredictable disturbances is feedback control.  In fact, feedback abounds in biological systems, a situation that makes the attribution of any particular feedback architecture to a specific feat of control all the more challenging.  I will discuss how the integration of modeling with experimentation has shed light on our understanding of the control of both size and pattern in biology.   

Bio: Arthur Lander received his B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale in 1979, followed by an M.D. and Ph.D. (in neuroscience) from UC San Francisco in 1985. After postdoctoral research at Columbia University, he joined the faculty at MIT in 1987. Since 1995, he has been at UC Irvine, where he is currently the Donald Bren Professor of Developmental & Cell Biology, and holds joint appointments in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Logic & Philosophy of Science. Dr. Lander directs the UCI Center for Complex Biological Systems, designated a National Center for Systems Biology by the NIH, which he founded to foster interdisciplinary research, training, and outreach at the interface between biology and the physical, computational, and engineering sciences. He also co-directs UCI’s Cancer Systems Biology Center, and is an Associate Director of the NSF-Simons Center for Multi-scale Cell Fate Research. 

Dr. Lander is interested in how cells and developing tissues achieve control objectives, such as precision, robustness, efficiency and speed, especially in the context of long-standing biological problems in pattern formation, growth regulation and regeneration.  His group uses a variety of traditional biology approaches:  model organisms (mice, flies, fish), genetic manipulation, and genomics. But because control problems are inherently systems-level–i.e. they deal with the behavior of an entire system in its environment–the lab exploits the tools of Systems Biology, including mathematical modeling, computation, large-scale data collection, and high-resolution live cell imaging. Such work is facilitated by extensive collaborations with mathematicians, computer scientists, physicists and engineers.


Dagmar Iber, Ph.D. | ETH Zurich

"From Networks to Function - Computational Models of Organogenesis"

Abstract: One of the major challenges in biology concerns the integration of data across length and time scales into a consistent framework: how do macroscopic properties and functionalities arise from the molecular regulatory networks and how do they evolve? Morphogenesis provides an excellent model system to study how simple molecular networks robustly control complex pattern forming processes. In my talk, I will focus on lung and kidney branching morphogenesis and discuss how chemical signaling and mechanical constraints shape the developing organs.

Bio: Dagmar Iber studied mathematics and biochemistry in Regensburg, Cambridge, and Oxford. She holds Master degrees and PhDs in both disciplines. After three years as a Junior Research Fellow in St John’s College, Oxford, Dagmar became a lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Imperial College London. Dagmar has joined ETH Zurich in 2008 after returning from an investment bank where she worked as an oil option trader for one year. Dagmar Iber’s group develops data-based, predictive models to understand the spatio-temporal dynamics of signaling networks. Close collaborations with experimental laboratories permit a cycle of model testing and improving. Her recent work focuses on mouse organogenesis (limb and brain development, lung and kidney branching morphogenesis) and simpler patterning systems to address more fundamental questions regarding the control of organ growth and the robustness of signalling mechanisms to evolutionary change.


Elliot Meyerowitz, Ph.D. | California Institute of Technology

"Mechanical Signaling and Response in Plant Morphogenesis"

Abstract: Dr. Meyerowitz's research and that of others shows that a major component of pattern formation in the shoot apical meristem of Arabidopsis plants (the stem cell population that contributes the above-ground parts of the plant) results from mechanical interactions between cells, and from mechanical response in the stem cell population as a whole. Several different modes of mechanical interaction, and progress toward finding the detailed mechanisms of response, will be discussed.

Bio: Elliot Meyerowitz is the George Beadle Professor of Biology, and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator at the California Institute of Technology, where he has been on the faculty since 1980. Prior to joining the Caltech faculty he obtained an undergraduate degree in Biology from Columbia University, and graduate degrees in Biology from Yale University, following which he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

From 2000 to 2010 he was Chair of the Caltech Division of Biology. In 2011 and 2012, while on leave from Caltech, he served as the Inaugural Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. The Meyerowitz laboratory studies the development of Arabidopsis thaliana, a widely used plant model system that his laboratory (and others) popularized beginning in the early 1980s. Current studies concentrate on the interrelated roles of mechanical and chemical signaling in plant morphogenesis.

Among Meyerowitz’s honors are the Genetics Society of America Medal (1996); the International Prize for Biology of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (1997); the Lounsbery Award of the National Academy of Sciences (1999); the R.G. Harrison Prize of the International Society of Developmental Biologists (2005); the Balzan Prize (2006); the Dawson Prize for Genetics from the University of Dublin (2013) and the Gruber Genetics Prize (2018). Meyerowitz is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, is a foreign associate of the Académie des Sciences of France, and a foreign member of the Royal Society.


Jennifer Zallen, Ph.D. | Sloan Kettering Institute

"Signals, Forces, and Cells:  Decoding Tissue Morphogenesis"

Abstract: A major challenge in developmental biology is to understand how large-scale tissue structure arises from events that occur on a cellular and molecular level. A major morphogenetic event in embryonic development is the elongation of the head-to-tail body axis, a process that requires rapid and coordinated movements of hundreds of cells. In Drosophila, we discovered that these highly organized cell movements are driven by a collective rosette mechanism that represents a conserved strategy for tissue elongation in flies, chicks, frogs, and mice. In addition, we discovered that these cell behaviors are systematically oriented by a global positional code involving an ancient family of receptors that are widely used for pathogen recognition by the innate immune system. These findings elucidate general principles that link molecular signals to the physical forces and collective cell behaviors that establish tissue structure.

Bio: Jennifer Zallen received a B.A. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from the University of California, San Francisco with Dr. Cori Bargmann. She did postdoctoral research with Dr. Eric Wieschaus at Princeton and joined the faculty at Sloan Kettering Institute in 2005. Her lab uses multidisciplinary approaches from cell and developmental biology, physics, engineering, and computer science to study how tissue architecture is dynamically established and remodeled throughout development. Dr. Zallen has received a Damon Runyon Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences, a March of Dimes Basil O’Connor Award, a Searle Scholars Award, and a W. M. Keck Foundation Distinguished Young Scholar Award. She was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist from 2009 to 2015. She is currently a Member of the Sloan Kettering Institute and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.


Michael Levin, Ph.D. | Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University

"Endogenous Bioelectric Networks and the Control of Growth, Form, and Function"

Abstract: Living bodies often exhibit remarkable plasticity of form and function, including the ability to reach invariant anatomical outcomes from diverse starting conditions. This process requires numerous decisions by cells and tissues. In this talk, I will describe our efforts to understand how electrical networks of cells (including both neural and non-neural components) underlie the computations that enable dynamic plasticity of regeneration and embryogenesis. New computational and molecular tools are enabling improved control over bioelectric signaling, leading to proof-of-principle applications in regenerative medicine and the creation of synthetic living machines.

Bio: Prior to college, Michael Levin worked as a software engineer and independent contractor in the field of scientific computing. He attended Tufts University, interested in artificial intelligence and unconventional computation. To explore the algorithms by which the biological world implemented complex adaptive behavior, he got dual B.S. degrees, in CS and in Biology. He received a PhD from Harvard University for the first characterization of the molecular-genetic mechanisms that allow embryos to form consistently left-right asymmetric body structures in a universe that does not macroscopically distinguish left from right (1992-1996); this work is on Nature’s list of 100 Milestones of Developmental biology of the Century. He then did post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School (1996-2000), where he began to uncover a new bioelectric language by which cells coordinate their activity during embryogenesis. His independent laboratory (2000-2007 at Forsyth Institute, Harvard; 2008-present at Tufts University) develops new molecular-genetic and conceptual tools to understand information processing in regeneration, embryogenesis, and cancer suppression. He holds the Vannevar Bush endowed Chair and serves as director of the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology. Recent honors include the Scientist of Vision award and the Distinguished Scholar Award. His group’s specific focus is on endogenous biophysical mechanisms that implement decision-making during pattern regulation, and harnessing voltage gradients that serve as prepatterns for anatomical polarity, organ identity, gene expression, and epigenetic modification. The lab’s current main directions are: 1) understanding how somatic cells form bioelectrical networks for processing pattern memories and guiding morphogenesis, 2) creating next-generation AI tools for helping scientists understand top-down control of pattern regulation (a new bioinformatics of shape), and 3) using these insights to discover new capabilities in regenerative medicine and engineering.


Will Ratcliff, Ph.D. | Georgia Institute of Technology

"The Biophysics of Nascent Multicellularity: How Structural Constraints Provide Evolutionary Opportunity"

Abstract: The origin of multicellularity was one of the most significant innovations in the history of life. Our understanding of the evolutionary processes underlying this transition remains limited, however, mainly because extant multicellular lineages are ancient and most transitional forms have been lost to extinction. We bridge this knowledge gap by evolving novel multicellularity in vivo. Over 5,000 generations of in-lab evolution, our multicelluar snowflake yeast evolve bodies that are 10,000 times tougher by solving fundamental developmental challenges. In this talk, I'll focus on the evolution of new multicellular-scale biophysics, and how biophysical adaptation likely played a key role in this major evolutionary transition.

Bio: Will Ratcliff is an assistant professor at Georgia Tech working on the origin of multicellularity, microbial social evolution, and bet hedging. His work is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Packard Foundation, NASA, and the Simons Foundation.


James Briscoe, Ph.D. | The Francis Crick Institute

"Building the Spinal Cord"

Abstract: The embryonic development of the vertebrate neural tube is a dynamic process coordinated by intercellular signalling that directs a gene regulatory network to assign cell fate. At the same time tissue growth and differentiation alters the arrangement and number of cells, contributing to the elaboration of pattern. Together these mechanisms determine the pattern, pace, precision and proportion of the forming neural tube. Thus, accurate development of the neural tube and the specification of neuronal subtype identity relies on the interplay of cellular and molecular processes.

Bio: James Briscoe is a senior group leader at the Francis Crick Institute, UK. He obtained a BSc in Microbiology and Virology from the University of Warwick, UK. Following his PhD research in Ian Kerr's laboratory at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London (which became Cancer Research UK and is now part of the Francis Crick Institute), he undertook postdoctoral training at Columbia University, New York, USA, with Thomas Jessell, first as a Human Frontiers Science Program Fellow then as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow. In 2000 he moved to the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research (now part of the Francis Crick Institute) to establish his own research group and in 2001 he was elected an EMBO Young Investigator. He was awarded the EMBO Gold Medal in 2008 and elected to EMBO in 2009. In 2018 he became Editor-in-Chief of Development, a journal published by the Company of Biologists, a not-for-profit scientific publisher. His research interests include the molecular and cellular mechanisms of graded signalling by morphogens and the role of transcriptional networks in the specification of cell fate. To address these questions his lab uses a range of experimental and computational techniques with model systems that include mouse and chick embryos and embryonic stem cells.


Wallace Marshall, Ph.D. | University of California, San Francisco

"Pattern Formation and Regeneration in a Single Cell"

Abstract: The question of how biological matter organizes itself into patterns applies both to multicellular organisms and to single cells. Dr. Marshall and his team are employing the classical model system Stentor coeruleus as a model system to learn how cells undergo morphogenesis and patterning at a whole-cell scale, taking advantage of Stentor's large size, highly visible patterning, and robust regeneration. They have sequenced the Stentor genome and are using this information to analyze gene expression patterns during regeneration.

Bio: After undergraduate training in Electrical Engineering at SUNY Stony Brook, Wallace Marshall obtained his Ph.D. in Biochemistry at UCSF, followed by postdoctoral research in cell biology at Yale University. He is currently professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF, where his research focuses on how cells solve engineering problems related to establishment of cellular geometry, including analysis of organelle size control systems, mechanisms for regeneration in single cells, and cellular decision making.


Veronica Grieneisen, Ph.D. | John Innes Centre

"Polarity across scales and across kingdoms"

Abstract: Coming soon.

Bio: Coming soon.


Wendell Lim, Ph.D. | University of California, San Francisco

"Programming the Formation of Synthetic Tissues"

Abstract: Multicellular organisms have evolved cell-cell communication programs that specify the robust self-organization of diverse body-plans and tissues. It is remarkable that genetically encoded programs can so compactly store the information to construct macroscopic tissues and organisms. Although we have identified many common themes seen in diverse developmental programs, many fundamental questions remain unclear. What are the minimal components required for multi-cellular self-organization, and how might metazoan multi-cellularity have arisen? Can we understand the language of self-organization sufficiently to be able to genetically program the formation of new types of tissues, or to drive developmental programs in response to novel inputs and niches (i.e. for regenerative medicine etc.)? Dr. Lim and his team have been developing a set of orthogonalized molecular parts that facilitate the construct defined, user-designed cell-cell interaction networks. Using these components (including orthogonal juxtacrine signals, paracrine signals, and adhesion/assembly systems) they have begun exploring how to program the formation of simple synthetic tissues from the bottom-up, as well as to modulate and control natural developmental programs..

Bio: Wendell Lim is the Byers Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California San Francisco, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He received his A.B. in Chemistry, summa cum laude, from Harvard College, his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and completed his postdoctoral training at Yale University. His research focuses on the design principles of molecular circuits that govern cell decision-making and responses. His lab has made contributions in understanding the molecular machinery of cell signaling and how molecular modules have been used in evolution to build novel new behaviors. Most recently he has been a pioneer in the emerging field of synthetic biology, exploring how these design principles can be harnessed to engineer cells with customized therapeutic response programs. He is an author of the textbook, Cell Signaling (Garland Science 2014) and was the founder of the cell therapy biotech startup, Cell Design Labs, which was acquired by Gilead Biosciences in 2017.


Arthur Prindle, Ph.D. | Northwestern University

"Emergent Metabolic Dynamics in Microbial Communities"

Abstract: The cell is the unit of life, yet cells usually exist in the context of many others within a community. In this talk, Dr. Prindle will describe recent efforts to understand collective functions in bacterial biofilm communities. In particular, how a conflict between protection and starvation is resolved through emergence of long-range metabolic interactions between peripheral and interior cells. Unexpectedly, this metabolic coordination is facilitated by ion channel-mediated electrochemical signals. These findings serve to establish a prokaryotic paradigm for electrical signaling and hint at the extent to which unicellular bacteria are capable of behaving as a proto-multicellular organism.

Bio: Arthur received a BS in Chemical Engineering from Caltech and a PhD in Bioengineering from UCSD. As a Simons-Helen Hay Whitney Fellow in the Süel Laboratory at UCSD, he developed new approaches to decipher collective mechanisms underlying bacterial biofilm organization. In particular, how a conflict between cooperation and competition is resolved through collective metabolic oscillations that increase nutrient availability for sheltered interior cells. Arthur found that these oscillations are coordinated by ion channel-mediated electrochemical signals, revealing an unexpected functional similarity between ion channels in neurons and those in microbes. These findings serve to establish a prokaryotic paradigm for electrical signaling and hint at the extent to which unicellular bacteria are capable of behaving as a proto-multicellular organism. Arthur is currently an Assistant Professor at Northwestern University in the Center for Synthetic Biology and holds a CASI award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, a Young Investigator award from the Army Research Office, and a Packard Foundation Fellowship.


Jessica Whited, Ph.D. | Harvard University

"Themes Underlying Pattern Formation in Regeneration Using Amphibian Limb"

Abstract: Many amphibians can regenerate limbs during some, or all, of their lives. These limbs are composed of tissues similar to those found in humans, hence understanding limb regeneration in these species could inform regenerative medicine approaches. The profound limb regenerative abilities of salamanders will be discussed with special emphasis on how these creatures cue the precise replacement of a complex appendage with perfect morphology. Both phenomenological and mechanistic insights will be presented, along with outstanding questions that await future experimentation.

Bio: Jessica L. Whited, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at Harvard University in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. The Whited Lab is focused on understanding the mechanisms enabling extreme regeneration in axolotl salamanders using a variety of molecular and genetic techniques. Jessica holds a BS in Biological Sciences and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Missouri. She earned a PhD in Biology at MIT studying the development of the nervous system in Drosophila in the lab of Dr. Paul Garrity. As a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School in Dr. Clifford Tabin's lab, Jessica established several key experimental tools in axolotl before beginning her independent laboratory at Brigham & Women's Hospital. Jessica is the recipient of the NIH New Innovator Award, the Smith Family Foundation Excellence in Biomedical Research Award, and the March of Dimes Basil O'Connor Award.