Project Description

Joint Assistant Professor, Physics and Bioengineering
Phone: (626)437-3761
Office: Foege N410F

UW Bioengineering faculty Paul Wiggins

My research group focuses on achieving a greater understanding of how biological systems function and are structured at the microscopic scale.
Bacterial cell biology, chromosome structure and bacterial ultra-structure
Quantitative Imaging
DNA and membrane statistical mechanics
In the last quarter century, biologists have made great strides towards understanding biology at the molecular scale. The human genome has been sequenced and the structures of many proteins, the molecular machines responsible for the function and structure of cells, have been solved. Single-molecule techniques and advances in microscopy have significantly changed the way in which biologists ask and answer questions. As biological measurements and techniques have become increasingly quantitative, they have allowed biologists to ask ever more quantitative questions: How do the molecular machines, which comprise the cell, function microscopically? Can we understand the design principles that govern the structure and function of biological systems on a microscopic scale? What role does the chaotic microscopic environment play in cellular function? One outcome of this new generation of quantitative biological questions is the need to greet quantitative experiments with models at a higher level of abstraction than the traditional cartoons of molecular biology. Our work centers on the interface between mathematical models of biological systems and this new generation of quantitative biological experiments.

The Wiggins lab is split between the Bioengineering and Physics Departments and we work closely with a number of labs in the Microbiology Department on problems ranging from DNA statistical mechanics and bacterial chromosome segregation to studying bacterial cooperativity in Cystic Fibrosis. From an engineering perspective, we are working on and developing a number of technologies including:

High-throughput fluorescence microscopy and automated analysis

Super-resolution fluorescence microscopy

Deep-sequencing based-structural analysis of the bacterial chromosome.

PhD, Physics, California Institute of Technology, 2005
BS, Applied and Engineering Physics, Cornell University, 1999
2011 Sloan Research Fellow
2007-2008 Skeggs Fellow at the Whitehead Institute
2005-2010 Whitehead Fellowship
2000-2003 NSF Graduate Fellowship
2000 Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award Lecture, Astronomical Society of New York
1999 Graduated Summa Cum Laude with Honors, Applied and Engineering Physics Cornell University
1999 Cucindal Award (For most promising student in the Applied and Engineering Physics Department at graduation), Cornell University

BIOEN 498/599: Contemporary Light Microscopy and Biophotonics
BIOEN 498/599: Contemporary Light Microscopy and Biophotonics  Lab

P. A. Wiggins, K. Cheveralls, Joshua S. Martin, Robert Lintner, Jané Kondev. Strong intra-nucleoid interactions organize the E. coli chromosome into a nucleoid filament. In press PNAS.

P. A. Wiggins, R. Th. Dame, M. C. Noom, G. Wuite. Protein mediated bridging motifs: a key mechanism in biopolymer organization. Biophys J. Oct 2009. (Featured Article.)

Rob Phillips, Tristan Ursell, Paul Wiggins, Pierre Sens. Emerging roles for lipids in shaping membrane-protein function. Nature. 459(7245) 379-85. (2009) Review.

Lee HJ, Peterson EL, Phillips R, Klug WS, Wiggins PA. Membrane shape as a reporter for applied forces.. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Dec 9;105(49):19253-7. Epub 2008 Dec 1. Commentary: – Frolov VA, Zimmerberg J. Membranes: Shaping biological matter. Nature Materials. 8(3) 173-174. (2009).

T. Ursell, J. Kondev, D. Reeves, P. Wiggins, and R. Phillips. The Role of Lipid Bilayer Mechanics in Mechanosensation in Mechanosensitivity in Cells and Tissues 1: Mechanosensitive Ion Channels, edited by A. Kamkin and I. Kiseleva, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2008. Review.

Wiggins PA, van der Heijden T, Moreno-Herrero F, Spakowitz A, Phillips R, Widom J, Dekker C, Nelson PC. High flexibility of DNA on short length scales probed by atomic force microscopy. Nat Nanotechnol. 2006 Nov;1(2):137-41. Epub 2006 Nov 3. Commentary: – Podgornik R, Polymer physics: DNA off the Hooke. Nat Nanotechnol. 1(2) 100-1. (2006) – Brendan Maher. Physics in the cell: Spring theory. Nature 448, 984-986. (2007)

Garcia HG, Grayson P, Han L, Inamdar M, Kondev J, Nelson PC, Phillips R, Widom J, Wiggins PA. Biological consequences of tightly bent DNA: the other life of a macromolecular celebrity. Biopolymers. 2007 Feb 5;85(2):115-30.

Wiggins PA, Nelson PC. Generalized theory of semiflexible polymers. Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2006 Mar;73(3 Pt 1):031906. Epub 2006 Mar 7.

P.A. Wiggins, R. Phillips & P. Nelson. Exact theory of kinkable elastic polymers. (PRE 013501, cond- mat/0409003).

P. Wiggins & R. Phillips. Membrane-protein interactions in mechanosensitive channels. Biophys. J., 88 (2): 880-902 (2005).

P.A. Wiggins & R. Phillips. Analytic models for mechanotransduction: Gating a mechanosensitive channel, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 101: 4071-4076 (2004).

P.A. Wiggins & D. Lai. Tidal Interactions Between a Fluid Star and a Kerr Black Hole in Circular Orbit, Astrophys. J. 532:530 (2000).


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