Laboratory for Quantitative Microbiology

Terry Hwa, Principal Investigator

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Areas of Research   

Current activities in our lab are in the area of quantitative and systemic biology. This is an emerging area of research at the interface of biology,  biochemistry, engineering, and physics. In this post-genome era,  it is clear that the complexity of a biological organism resides not merely in the intricacies of its components (e.g., proteins), but more importantly in the array of interactions these components can have with each other.  This shift of paradigm is initiating a revolution in biology: Instead of focusing on genes, proteins, and pathways, bioloigsts are beginning to think in terms of modules and networks. However, a significant challenge lies in the fact that much of the interactions of the subsystems are yet unknown.

Our research is focused on microbiology, particularly on the bacterium E. coli which is the best characterized living organism both molecularly and physiologically. In the long run, we wish to develop a comprehensive understanding of the organism, i.e., understanding its physiological response under various growth conditions in molecular terms. However even for E. coli, a global approach seems premature in our opinion due to the many missing molecular players and interactions. Thus, we work on smaller sub-systems, with the insistence on developing quantitative links from molecules all the way to cell physiology. Our emphasis can be regarded as the "vertical approach", which complements the "horizontal approach" favored by the 'omics technology. An introduction to our vertical, quantitative approach is described in a recent course on quantitative molecular biology developed by our laboratory.

Vertical integration requires a command of the vast knowledge accumulated over many decades of research in molecular and microbiology, as well as a combination of experimental and theoretical efforts. Some of the experiments are being carried out in our own lab; others are done together with biology collaborators. Our experiments are often theory-motivated, yet discoveries made in the lab has inspired fresh theoretical view points. In similar ways, our theoretical studies play the dual role of analyzing experimetal results and guiding new generation of experiments. The close interaction between theory and experiment allows the theorists to be in contact with biological reality, and allows the experimentalists to have a good sense of the power (and limitations) of quantitative analysis. In this way, we hope to train a new generation of scientists who can freely exploit opportunities at the interface between biology and physics.

Below are some topics our lab has been working in recent years; all projects involve experimental and theoretical  components.

Personnel & Affiliations

Current and affiliated lab members:

    Tomoya Honda, graduate student (2012 -- )
    Jonas Cremer, post-doc (2012 -- )
    Susan Lee, undergrad biology (2012 -- )
    Markus Basan, post-doc (2011 -- )
    Kevin Huang, undergrad bioengr (2012 -- )
    Mya Warren, post-doc (2010 -- )
    Hiroyuki Okano, project scientist (2008 -- )
    Conghui You, post-doc (2008 -- )
    Tony Hui, graduate student (2007 -- )
    David Erickson, graduate student (2007 -- )
    Barret Deris, graduate student (2007 -- )
    Zhongge Zhang, project scientist (2003 -- )

Former lab members:

    Rutger Hermsen, post-doc (2009 -- 2012)
    Sophia Lin, undergrad biology (2011 -- 2012)
    John Paredes, undergrad biology (2010 -- 2011)
    Minsu Kim, post-doc (2008 -- 2012)
    Carl Gunderson, post-doc (2008 -- 2010)
    Emily Wu, undergrad biology (2008 -- 2010)
    Alex Beath, post-doc (2007 -- 2009)
    Stefan Klumpp, post-doc (2006 -- 2009)
    Peter McHale, post-doc (2007 -- 2009)
    Erel Levine, post-doc (2005 -- 2009)
    Matt Scott, post-doc (2006 -- 2008)
    Carmen Situ, undergrad biochem (2007 -- 2008)
    Albert Tsai, undergrad biophysics (2006 -- 2007)
    Robert Yee, undergrad biology (2005 -- 2007)
    Jian Liu, post-doc (2005 -- 2007)
    Eddy Mateescu, post-doc (2005 -- 2007)
    Tom Kuhlman, Ph.D. student (2003 -- 2007)
    Sabrina Li, MS student (2004 -- 2007)
    Christina Wakimoto, undergrad biology (2005 -- 2007)
    Robert Yee, undergrad biology (2004 -- 2006)
    Shumo Liu, specialist (2003 -- 2006)
    Robert White, post-doc (2004 -- 2006)
    Weiqun Peng, post-doc (2001 -- 2004)
    Rolf Olsen, Ph.D. student (1998 -- 2003)
    Nicolas Buchler, post-doc (2001 -- 2003)
    Ulrich Gerland, post-doc (2000 -- 2003)
    Peter Arndt, post-doc (2001 -- 2003)
    Roman Sasik, post-doc (1999 -- 2001)
    David J. Moroz, post-doc (1998 -- 2001)
    Ralf Bundschuh, post-doc (1997 -- 2001)
    Dinko Cule, post-doc (1995 -- 1997)
    Jan Kierfeld, exchange Ph.D. student (1995 - 1996)

Former visitors:

    Dalai Yan, Indiana University (2007 - 2012)
    Darren Peng, Diamond Bar; high school student (summer 2012)
    Yang Shen, Hong Kong; grad exchange student (2011 -- 2012)
    Nicole Werner, Chile; undergrad exchange student (2011)
    Qinqin Jiang, Hong Kong; undergrad exchange student (2011)
    Jilong Wang, Beijing; grad exchange student (2009 - 2011 )
    Xin Liu, Beijing; grad exchange student (2008 -- 2010)
    Bryan Lunt, visiting student (2008 -- 2011)
    Patrick Levi, Erlangen; grad exchange student (2008)
    Martin Weigt, ISI Torino (2008)
    Vladimir Teif, Minsk (2008)
    Pohan Lee, Taipei (2007-08)
    Peter Lenz, Marburg (2007, 2008, 2009)


Biology collaborators:

    Ethan Bier lab, Developmental Biology, UCSD
    Lin Chao lab, Evolutionary Biology, UCSD
    Antoine Danchin lab, Pasteur Institute
    Jeff Hasty lab, Bioengineering, UCSD
    Jim Hoch lab, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Scripps
    Sydney Kustu lab, Microbiology, Berkeley
    Bill Loomis lab, Developmental Biology, UCSD
    Bill McGinnis lab, Developmental Biology, UCSD
    Dmitri Petrov lab, Evolutionary Biology, Stanford
    Milton Saier lab, Molecular Biology, UCSD
    Yiping Wang lab, Peking Univ, China

Local organizations:

    Center for Theoretical Biophysics
    Molecular Biophysics training program
    Bioinformatics training program
    Department of Physics
    Division of Biological Sciences
    Department of Bioengineering
    Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
    The Scripps Research Institute
    Salk Institute
    San Diego Microbiology Group

    q-bio archive
    bio-related local seminars

Contact Information

Postal address:

Department of Physics, M/C 0374
University of California at San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0374

Office: 7246 Urey Hall
Tel: (858) 534-7263
Fax: (858) 534-7697
Admin. assistant:

Nancy Steinmetz
Office: 7210 Urey Hall
Tel: (858) 534-4818

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