The Foster Lab is an interdisciplinary research group focused on the Physics of Living systems. Research in the group falls into two main themes.
CYTOSKELETAL ACTIVE MATTER
Active matter is a special class of nonequilibrium materials driven out of thermodynamic equilibrium through energy injected by the system's components. The cellular cytoskeleton is a foundational example of an active material due to the conversion of chemical energy into mechanical work by molecular motor proteins. Through an inverse energy cascade, this energy propagates across length-scales, allowing the material as a whole to break the constraints of thermal equilibrium and display remarkable emergent behaviors. What are the design rules relating the emergent properties of these materials to the motor-scale interactions between components? Our group will address this question in vitro using purified cytoskeletal proteins. Addressing this question will uncover the physics of these highly nonequilibrium systems while providing biological insight into the function of these motors in cells.
A defining feature of life is metabolism, where energy from the environment is converted into chemical forms usable for cellular processes. While the biochemical pathways of central metabolism are well understood, how the cellular energy budget is apportioned into different cellular processes is an open question. What is the cellular energy budget? How is this limited budget divided among cellular processes? For a given cellular process, what constraints are imposed by the flows of energy? These are central questions in the emerging area of Physical Bioenergetics. Our group will begin addressing these questions using oocytes from the bat starfish Patiria miniata as a model system.
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