Crossing scales in biology: The grand challenge of our era

Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences
Megaron, Educatorium
Prof. Lucas Pelkmans

 Prof. Lucas Pelkmans, ETH Zurich

Department of Molecular Life Sciences University of Zurich, Irchel Campus

Lucas studied at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands and obtained his PhD from the ETH Zurich in 2003, after which he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany. In 2005, he became assistant professor at the ETH Zurich, and in 2010 he was elected Ernst Hadorn Chair at the University of Zurich in the Department of Molecular Life Sciences.




Quantitative cell biology, cell-to-cell variability, and systems biology 
Our lab operates at the forefront of research in quantitative cell biology, in the study of cell-to-cell variability, as well as in systems approaches based on large- scale genetic perturbations and network biology. Over the years, we have made groundbreaking discoveries in virus entry, endocytosis, and the assembly of caveolae. We pioneered multi-parametric image-based RNAi screens in mammalian cells, we were the first to reveal that cell-to-cell variability in human cells is largely predictable, we have defined a novel type of regulatory genetic interaction and mapped these in the endocytic membrane system, and we invented image-based transcriptomics. We have also uncovered a novel principle by which a kinase couples liquid phase transitions in the cytoplasm to signal transduction, and identified a cell-intrinsic molecular mechanism by which cells adapt their lipid composition to local crowding, driving variability in single- cell behavior and pattern formation in cell populations. We are highly motivated to stay at the forefront of these fields by developing new computational and single- cell methods and by combining unbiased data-driven research with reductionist approaches in innovative ways.

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