Quantum Matter Seminar

Tuesday, December 7, 2021
1:00pm to 2:00pm
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East Bridge 201 (Richard P. Feynman Lecture Hall)
How do cells know their place and fish measure curl: decoding biological function from geometric patterns
Mariela Petkova, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University,

Special Biophysics Seminar

Patterns are ubiquitous in both the animate and inanimate world, but a hallmark of living systems is that patterns are reproducible and encode function. I will discuss how biological function can be decoded from pattern geometry in two systems: a genetic network in a developing fly embryo, and a neural circuit in a larval zebrafish. In the first example, I show that cells in the developing fly embryo measure the spatial patterns of molecules from a small genetic network and turn these into optimal estimates of their position along the embryo's length. In the second example, larval zebrafish can navigate upstream even in the absence of visual cues by measuring the curl of the local water flow. To make this measurement, larval zebrafish use mechanosensory cells suggestively arranged along an oriented contour around the animal's body. I am using serial section electron microscopy to build the physical wiring diagram of the neural circuit that computes the curl.

For more information, please contact Pam Albertson by phone at 626 395 4411 or by email at psa@caltech.edu.