Understanding and Controlling Decisions.
Monitoring the dynamics of the decision making process is the first step towards understanding how developmental and behavioral decisions are made. Measuring the dynamics of complex molecular and neural networks that control these decisions is challenging.
The first direction of our research program has been to develop computational and experimental tools to rapidly identify key nodes within gene regulatory and neural networks whose dynamics control and best reflect the process of decision. The goal is to read the “mind” of the cell or animal as it makes a decision.
The second direction of the program is to monitor the decisions in real time to understand how individual multi-potent cells of the embryo receive and process signals to make developmental decisions, how signal reception and processing is affected by the geometry of the embryo, and how these decisions lead to the patterning of the embryo. These questions are focussed on addressing an open and important question in developmental biology: how the size of tissues and organs and the timing of their development are determined.
The third direction is to exploit our understanding to control the decisions that cells and animals make as well as to re-engineer the underlying networks to produce novel phenotypes. This this end, we want to develop and employ novel bioengineering, microscopy and optogenetic tools. We further exploit the cross species comparisons and analysis to achieve our goal.