Fundamental laws governing dynamics in living systems
Life emerges from the interaction of a large number of different molecules and cells. While important to research, technology, and medicine, the dynamics of these networks is often unpredictable. Our laboratory seeks to uncover the laws governing the dynamics of genetic and cellular networks. We combine theory and experiment, tying our predictions to reality using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the worm Caenorhabditis elegans. Currently, we are asking:
A) What sets the time scale of cellular replication?
B) Why do checkpoints fail and what sets the timescale of failure?
C) When is the dynamics of genetic networks unstable and fragile?
D) How can we uncover hidden internal states in neuronal networks?
Prof. S. J. Rahi Bio
Sahand J. Rahi graduated with a BA (majors: biochemistry, mathematics, and physics) and MS (chemistry) from the University of Pennsylvania (2001-2005). During this time, he devised an algorithm for mapping protein surfaces onto simpler surfaces of the same genus and proposed a simple solvation model for amino acids.
In his PhD studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (2005-2010), he switched to theoretical condensed matter physics. He derived a general closed-form expression for the interaction energy of objects in space which arises due to quantum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field. He applied the formula to a variety of intractable geometries and proved a general instability theorem for these forces.
Fascinated by the open questions in biology, he took up an independent fellowship at the Center for Studies in Physics and Biology at The Rockefeller University. There, he established that there is one central biochemical clock controlling major parts of the cell cycle system. Furthermore, he showed that two types of highly prevalent networks in living systems, which are topologically different but show similar behaviors to many perturbations, can be discriminated by way of dynamic signatures.
Before starting at EPFL, he spent another year at the Department of Physics at Harvard University, where he created novel genotypes of the worm C. elegans for investigating neuronal information processing.