Research

Overview

What distinguishes a non-living matter from a living matter? They are both made of atoms. They are both governed by the same fundamental physical laws and principles. A single atom doesn't have a "life" of its own. If we put two atoms together, we still don't get a living system. But step by step, as we wire together three, four, five, and eventually many Avogadro numbers of atoms together in just the right way, a living system like yourself emerges. This process of assembling brainless atoms together somehow yields us: human beings who can feel sadness and joy, make decisions, process information, and possess apparent "free will", which Hyun apparently exercised when he chose to type this very sentence right here on this webpage. In ways that are poorly understood, these remarkable features of life emerge from the myriad interactions among the molecules that compose cells. One of the biggest challenges that physical scientists have yet to resolve is identifying quantitative rules and principles governing living systems, and then showing how they emerge from putting together fundamental physical laws governing the behaviours of lifeless molecules. In doing so, we may one day truly understand living systems within a mathematical framework in the same way that we now understand the physics of many non-living systems. Our lab's research is motivated by this very fundamental goal. We perform experiments that perturb, rewire, build, and eliminate interactions within unicellular and multicellular systems to reveal quantitative principles of living systems.