Professor Lubensky does theoretical and computational research at the interface between physics and biology, and in particular in the rapidly growing area of systems biology. Rather than focusing on the properties of individual biological molecules, as biophysicists have traditionally done, this field seeks to understand how networks of interacting genes or proteins can collectively accomplish a particular biological function. For example, we know quite a bit about the receptors a bacterium uses to detect nutrients, the flagellar motors that drive its motion, and the signaling molecules that carry messages between them. But how do all of these components work together to allow it to reliably swim towards food? Professor Lubensky’s group addresses such questions by building mathematical models of particular biological systems, usually in close collaboration with experimental groups. The qualitative behavior and robustness of these models are then analyzed with the goal of making novel, testable predictions.
Topics currently being studied in Professor Lubensky’s group include:
- Circadian clocks in bacteria and the possible implications of the “molecular synchronization” mechanism driving these clocks for other biological oscillators.
- The formation of the regular pattern of lenses in the fruit fly’s compound eye and the insights this pattern formation process can give us into other examples of neural fate specification during animal development.
- The role of mechanical forces in shaping tissues during animal development. A particular focus here has been the packing of cells in sheets called epithelia. One example of such epithelia is the fish retina, which we study in collaboration with Pamela Raymond in UM’s Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology.
A Dynamical Model of Ommatidial Crystal Formation, (David K. Lubensky, Matthew W. Pennington, Boris I. Shraiman, and Nicholas E. Baker), PNAS 108, 11145-11150 July 5, 2011, issue (2011).
Robust Circadian Clocks from Coupled Protein Modification and Transcription-translation Cycles, (David Zwicker, David K. Lubensky, and Pieter Rein ten Wolde), PNAS 107, 22540, (2010).
Switch and Template Pattern Formation in a Discrete Reaction-diffusion System Inspired by the Drosophila Eye, (Matthew W. Pennington and David K. Lubensky), Eur. Phys. J. E 33, 129, (2010).
Equilibrium-like Behavior in Chemical Reaction Networks Far from Equilibrium, (David K. Lubensky), Phys. Rev. E 81, 060102(R), (2010).
An Allosteric Model of Circadian KaiC Phosphorylation, (J.S. van Zon, D.K. Lubensky, P.R. Altena, and P.R. ten Wolde), PNAS 104, 7420, (2007).