What kind of research are we doing?
Our focus is on probing the molecular mechanisms of gene regulation and developing physical models of how the cell translates its genetic code into life, that is, how genes are turned on and off in order to express mRNAs, which in turn are translated to protein. Central questions are how the cell coordinates the need for different molecules and how fast these molecules can find each other in the cell. We are interested in the physical constraints on how fast regulatory molecules can find their correct target DNA sequence and how accurately RNA can be translated into protein. We also study how gene expression is regulated on a molecular level and how all these processes are coordinated with the cell’s division cycle.
To find the answers, we use a wide range of different approaches that are optimized to obtain data with sufficient spatial and temporal resolution. Central methods are single-molecule tracking in living cells, single-molecule FRET, cryo-electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography, molecular dynamics, and reaction-diffusion simulations. We constantly develop microscopy, kinetic theory and computational biology in order to reach a deeper understanding of life at the molecular level.