Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

News & Events


Professors Elowitz and Gharib Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences


EAS Professors Michael Elowitz, and Morteza Gharib, have been elected to the 2015 American Academy of Arts and Sciences class of fellows. This year’s class of fellows also includes Caltech Board of Trustee members Maria D. Hummer-Tuttle, and James F. Rothenberg. They have joined an assembly that was founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholars to provide practical solutions to pressing issues. [Caltech story]

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Michael Elowitz Featured in Nature Celebration


The seminal research of Bioengineers Michael Elowitz, Associate Professor of Biology and Applied Physics; and Frances Arnold, Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry, are featured in Nature's celebration of 10 years of 'Synthetic Systems Biology'.  [Read Nature article]

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Michael Elowitz and Avigdor Eldar Show How Evolution Can Allow for Large Developmental Leaps


Michael Elowitz, Associate Professor of Biology and Applied Physics; Bren Scholar, and Avigdor Eldar, Postdoctoral Scholar, show how evolution can allow for large developmental leaps. Most volutionary changes happen in tiny increments: an elephant grows a little larger, a giraffe's neck a little longer. Elowitz and Eldar's team have shown that such changes may at least sometimes be the result of noise, working alongside partial penetrance. Eldar, states "if you take a bunch of cells and grow them in exactly the same environment, they'll be identical twin brothers in terms of the genes they have, but they may still show substantial differences in their behavior". Elowitz adds that "noise—these random fluctuations of proteins in the cell—is not just a nuisance in this system; it's a key part of the process that allows genetically identical cells to do very different things." [Caltech Press Release]

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Niles Pierce and Michael Elowitz on Nature List of Favourite Articles


The editors of Nature have published a list of 22 of their favourite articles from 2008 - including Programming biomolecular self-assembly pathways by Niles Pierce, Associate Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Bioengineering, and colleagues, and Frequency-modulated nuclear localization bursts coordinate gene regulation by Michael Elowitz, Assistant Professor of Biology and Applied Physics and Bren Scholar, and colleagues. 

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Professor Michael Elowitz Receives PECASE


Michael Elowitz, Assistant Professor of Biology and Applied Physics and Bren Scholar, has received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. The PECASE awards recognize outstanding scientists and engineers who, early in their careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of knowledge.

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Michael Elowitz, Long Cai, and Chiraj Dalal Find Cells Coordinate Gene Activity with FM Bursts


How a cell achieves the coordinated control of a number of genes at the same time, a process that's necessary for it to regulate its own behavior and development, has long puzzled scientists. Michael Elowitz, assistant professor of biology and applied physics, along with postdoctoral research scholar Long Cai, and graduate student Chiraj Dalal, have discovered a surprising answer. Just as human engineers control devices ranging from dimmer switches to retrorockets using pulsed--or frequency modulated (FM)--signals, cells tune the expression of groups of genes using discrete bursts of activation. [Caltech Press Release]

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Michael Elowitz Named HHMI Investigator


Michael Elowitz, Assistant Professor of Biology and Applied Physics and a Bren Scholar, has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. Elowitz is fundamentally interested in how cells' own genetic circuits dictate what type of cells they become. In work that overturned the steadfastnotion that genes and networks of genes operate in a predictable and fixed fashion, he and his colleagues showed that key properties of the cell, like how actively it turns out different proteins, are intrinsically random. To show that randomness is used to more accurately control the shapes and patterns that make organisms work, Elowitz is turning to larger and more complex animal cells. "I'm grateful to HHMI for the amazing opportunity this appointment presents to focus as much as possible on research. The funds will enable us to explore new directions, especially allowing us to expand approaches we've previously developed primarily in bacteria to mammalian cells." [Caltech Press Release]

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