The biophysics of Cell-environment interactions: a structural and computational perspective.
While cells in multicellular organisms are presented with fairly constant environments, microbes and protozoans need to react to highly variable conditions. Accordingly, in single-celled organisms, sophisticated systems are localized both at the cellular surface, and in the intracellular sub-compartments, which allow them to quickly and efficiently adjust cell chemistry and gene expression. In my research, I have focused on microbial adhesins, glycan binding proteins which recognize biological surfaces, both in the context of bacterial communities, and infection biology. Further, microbial responses to light, be it in optogenetic systems, or in DNA photodamage repair, has recently become a central area of study for me.
Both of these fields are approached from a biophysical perspective, making use of protein-crystallographic techniques, as well as in-vitro analyses. In this respect, the development of surface modulating additives has been invaluable for my research. Finally, I make use of molecular dynamics simulations and small angle X-ray scattering to highlight protein flexibility and dynamics in a way which mostly escapes crystallographic techniques.