BioSciences Research Overview

Research Overview

BioSciences has outstanding research expertise in diverse areas, including animal behavior, biochemistry, biophysics and structural biology, cancer biology, cell and developmental biology, computational biology, conservation biology, ecology, evolution, genetics, microbiology, neurobiology, plant biology, signal transduction, and synthetic and systems biology. Collaborative activity among research groups creates a lively and productive research environment and provides comprehensive training opportunities throughout modern biological sciences.

Our research in ecology and evolutionary biology bridges multiple levels of biological organization, ranging from genes to ecosystems, to address key processes that underlie patterns of life on earth. The research foci of our faculty includes gene and genome evolution, speciation, life-history evolution, animal behavior, population and community ecology, conservation biology, and climate change. We study these questions in a diverse range of ecosystems spanning deserts, tropical rain forest, to marine and freshwater habitats in North, Central and South America, Europe, Africa, and China. Our research is characterized by a strong conceptual and quantitative focus which combines field and laboratory experiments with sophisticated statistical and mathematical models and cutting edge technologies such as stable isoptope analysis, environmental DNA, and high throughput whole genome sequencing.

Our research in biochemistry and cell biology addresses key questions using a wide range of systems using a variety of approaches and techniques. The central theme that brings our diverse interests together is our fundamental interest in biochemical mechanisms of molecular and cellular function. We investigate the structure and function of individual proteins and nucleic acids, the assembly of cellular membranes and organelles, and the development of tissues and organisms, as well as the molecular mechanisms underlying interactions among cells and between organisms and their environment. Our research methodologies cover a broad spectrum of techniques and experimental approaches, employ state-of-the-art instrumentation for imaging and protein structure analysis, and utilize the advantages of a variety of model genetic organisms including yeast, nematodes, plants, fruit flies, and zebrafish.

Our research in synthetic and systems biology addresses one of the most pressing biological questions in the post-genomic era: how can we understand the vast networks of interacting parts that translate genotypes into phenotypes? Synthetic and systems biologists bring together diverse fields including biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computational modeling, and engineering to elucidate the fundamental principles governing gene regulatory networks. Our synthetic biologists use a “bottom-up” approach by creating simplified, de novo gene networks to understand the processes by which regulation occur, whereas our systems biologists bring a “top-down” approach to large-scale native networks to discover the emergent properties and effects of the underlying layers of regulation. We have researchers from both disciplines working together to improve understanding of cellular regulatory processes.