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Complex Systems Seminar Series Presents: From molecules to development: revealing simple rules of biological clocks

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
12:00 AM
411 West Hall

From molecules to development: revealing simple rules of biological 

Cell-autonomous oscillators play a key role in the timing of various well-conserved biological processes, including neuron spikes, heartbeats, mitotic cycles, circadian rhythms, vertebrate somitogenesis, etc. The interplay of individual, microscopic oscillators may be responsible for the macroscopic periodic pattern formation and morphogenesis in developing embryos. In my talk, I will first discuss the basic design principles of biological clocks using the early embryonic mitotic cycles in Xenopus as a motivating example. We found that the negative feedback functions as a time-delayed, digital switch (Yang et al., Nat Cell Biol, 2013; Ferrell et al., Cell, 2011). Next, I will discuss our current effort to search for the clock motifs or recurrent topologies that may be evolutionarily conserved for essential clock functions, such as robustness and tunability. Last, I will briefly talk about ongoing projects on two essential developmental processes in zebrafish: synchronous embryo cleavages and somitogenesis. We aim to investigate how single oscillators interact with each other in time and space, and hope to elucidate the mechanisms of clock coupling in these processes. We employ mathematical modeling, microfluidic techniques, and optical imaging as an integral approach to these questions. Interested students are encouraged to contact me ( and to visit our webpage ( for more details.