401, Terry Ave N, Insitute for Systems Biology
It becomes a trend in life science community to study biological phenomena from first principles. Development has long been regarded as one of the most mysterious problems in biology. In the past years I coordinated with people from various areas and tried to apply theories developed recently in dynamic system, stochastic process as well as non-equilibrium statistical physics to understand the general mechanisms in development, reprogramming, transdifferentiation as well as other cellular fate conversions. Those projects are closely correlated with the mathematical quantification of the famous embryologist Conrad Waddington’s “epigenetic landscape”. As pointed out by Dobzhansky that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, the development cannot also be really understood without referring to evolution. How does the development reshape through evolution? Why and how is the evolution constrained by the development (related to Stephen Jay Gould’s Spandrels). My current project in this direction (evolution-developmental biology, or evo-devo in short) is about establishing a computational framework to investigate the relationship between development and evolution. With this framework, I also expect to study other critical topics in evo-devo: heterochrony, atavism, evolvability, punctuated equilibrium, hour-glass model, genotype to phenotype mapping, just to name a few.
On the other hand, I also interested in how to combine my theoretical studies with the experiments. Specially, I would like to learn skills on establishing development system for evolution studies. Those systems include like C. elegans, Drosophia, Sea Urchin or stem cells. By using next-generation sequencing, single cell techniques and state-of-art statistics methods, and by shaping the development trajectories through perturbating the underlying developmental gene regulatory networks (GRNs), I expect to systematically anatomize those topics mentioned above on the basis of the combined studies of theories with experiments.
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Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center | University of Washington
Institute for Systems Biology | Seattle Biomed