- Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1992
The ultimate goal of my research is to understand the biological and genetic mechanisms of common diseases.
A major difficulty for understanding biological systems is that they span a broad range of scales. My lab aims to connect the microscopic (e.g., genetic or molecular) level to the macroscopic (e.g., phenotypic) level using mathematical and computational tools. One problem in bridging this gap is that direct modeling at the microscopic level is extremely difficult. My approach is to develop and analyze models at an intermediate mesoscopic level that are biophysically informed by the microscopic level but are simple enough to make quantitative predictions at the macroscopic level. This can also be applied in reverse, where the macroscopic level provides constraints on the mesoscopic level that can then isolate the key components at the microscopic level. When the appropriate mathematical and computational tools do not exist, I develop new ones. My research is thus divided between purely theoretical research and applied work in collaboration with experiments on topics in metabolism, gene transcription, human genetics, and neuroscience.
Applying our Research
One of the reasons that common diseases such as obesity and autism are notoriously difficult to treat is because they are highly complex and span many scales. I hope that my research will lead to new and better treatments by providing improved quantitative understanding of the underlying biology.
Need for Further Study
We are on the verge of an explosion in new sequencing and single cell imaging data. Understanding and integrating this data will require new mathematical and computational tools.
- Single-Molecule Imaging Reveals a Switch between Spurious and Functional ncRNA Transcription.
- Lenstra TL, Coulon A, Chow CC, Larson DR.
- Mol Cell (2015 Nov 19) 60:597-610. Abstract/Full Text
- Canonical Cortical Circuit Model Explains Rivalry, Intermittent Rivalry, and Rivalry Memory.
- Vattikuti S, Thangaraj P, Xie HW, Gotts SJ, Martin A, Chow CC.
- PLoS Comput Biol (2016 May) 12:e1004903. Abstract/Full Text
Research in Plain Language
Biology is highly complex and involves interactions at many scales. These scales range from genes and molecules to organs and the body as a whole. In order to treat common diseases like obesity or autism, it is necessary to understand how all the pieces fit together. My lab uses mathematical and computational tools to quantitatively connect the various scales. This provides a global picture of complex diseases.