Systems & Quantitative Biology

MCDB researchers alone, and in collaboration with the faculty in the Departments of Physics, Mechanical and Computer Engineering, and the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics are taking systems approaches for modeling complex and diverse biological phenomena. UCSB provides a unique interdisciplinary research environment that encourages collaboration between the life, physical, and computational sciences. Among the areas of research being actively investigated at the systems level are the mechanisms of bacterial contact-dependent growth inhibition, fertilization, animal morphogenesis, cell polarity, microRNAs, and stem cell differentiation. In another area, MCDB researchers are combining field and laboratory experiments, in concert with mathematical modeling, to study the remarkable synchronous mass spawning of many coral species that occur on just one night in the year. System approaches will resolve the complex system of interactions between solar and lunar illumination, ocean environmental conditions, and the genetic, molecular and physiological processes they regulate, resulting in the exceptionally tight synchrony of spawning among colonies over large geographic distances.


Diego Acosta-Alvear

Cells employ complex mechanisms to maintain homeostasis. If homeostasis cannot be restored, apoptosis is initiated to eliminate injured cells for the benefit of the organism. This dichotomy places these homeostatic mechanisms -collectively known as cellular stress responses- at the core of the survival versus death decision. In disease, abnormal cells can remodel their stress responses to gain a survival advantage or evade apoptosis.

Carolina Arias

Our lab focuses on understanding virus-host interactions. Because of the strict dependence of viruses on the molecular machineries of their hosts, complex strategies have evolved to enable viruses to control the cell to their advantage. In a way, viruses can be thought of as molecular tinkerers that became engineers. As such, viruses provide unique opportunities to peer into the inner workings of the cell: by understanding the mechanisms by which viruses control their host cells, we get valuable insights into basic cell biology.

Anthony De Tomaso

Molecular mechanisms of self/non-self recognition in non-vertebrates; characterization of stem cells and development processes underlying regeneration and aging.

Ruth Finkelstein

Molecular genetics of plant development; analysis of abscisic acid signaling networks.

Kathleen Foltz

Cellular and molecular basis of fertilization, egg activation and the egg-to-embryo transition using a variety of marine invertebrates.

Sung Soo Kim

Neural circuit dynamics and behavior; navigation in a visual environment; neural mechanisms of object selection a.nd decision-making

Kenneth S. Kosik

Neural plasticity including the molecular basis of plasticity, the evolution of synapses, and disease-related impairments of plasticity such as occurs in Alzheimer's disease.

David Low

Cellular communication between bacteria, including mechanisms and biology of contact-dependent growth inhibition; epigenetic gene regulatory mechanisms.

Craig Montell

A central question in neurobiology is defining the molecular and cellular mechanisms through which animals translate sensory input into behavioral outputs. Our lab is focusing on dissecting how animal behaviors are influenced by changes in temperature, light input, gustatory and olfactory cues, and mechanical forces. To tackle this problem, we are using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, because it allows us to employ a combination of molecular, cellular, biochemical, electrophysiological and genetic approaches to study the link between sensory signaling and animal behavior.

Denise J. Montell

My laboratory uses a combination of molecular, genetic, and state-of-the-art imaging approaches to define and solve fundamental questions in cell and developmental biology with implications for neurodegenerative disease, ischemic diseases and cancer.

Joel Rothman

Molecular and genetic control of development in the nematode C. elegans; regulation of programmed cell death; mechanisms of tumorigenesis.

Julie H. Simpson

Genetics, Neural Circuits, and Motor sequences

William Smith

Developmental genetics and morphogenesis of the primitive chordate Ciona.

Max Wilson

Combines tools from Biology, Engineering, and Physics to understand the cell’s perceptual field.