NEWS

Viral self-assembly

Viral Videos: Manoharan lab captures first images of virus in action

October 9, 2019

Louis Pasteur remains a titan of biology and medicine. His insights into the microbial world saved countless lives that would otherwise have been lost to cholera, or to rabies, or to food poisoning. Yet Pasteur went to his grave a failure on one front: he couldn’t get his hands on rabies.

Pasteur successfully pioneered the rabies vaccine, painstakingly extracting saliva from rabid dogs, but he was never able to find the root cause...

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WoCP Williams

New Face of Physics: Women+ of Color Project launches at Harvard

October 4, 2019

Lanell Williams is only the third woman in Harvard history to pursue a Ph.D. in Physics. Yet future Dr. Williams is already making plans for four, five, and six.

This week, Williams hosted a 3-day workshop for women of color who want their own ground-breaking graduate degrees. For three days, the Physics Library in Jefferson Hall was home to 20 African American, Latinx, and Native American women who are trying to pursue their passion for physics and, in so doing, change history.

“I’m bringing these students here now,...

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Digital DNA

Disentangling DNA: NSF-Simons Center welcomes Zoe Piran

October 1, 2019

The human body is made of trillions of cells. Each cell contains the genome of that individual, a DNA string 3 billion letters long. Even if you could sequence every DNA base pair in every cell, would you be able to make sense of it?

Enter Zoe Piran, a PhD student in Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Piran has joined the NSF-Simons Center for Quantitative Biology to tackle exactly this problem.

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Gilpin

Secrets of Swimming Starfish: NSF-Simons Center welcomes William Gilpin

September 15, 2019

What do Neanderthal migration, cryptography, and the swimming strokes of baby starfish have in common? Answer: They are all fair game, as far as William Gilpin is concerned.

Gilpin is interested in dynamics and chaos in living systems. He previously earned degrees in Physics from Princeton and Stanford and is now a full-time member of Harvard’s NSF-Simons Center.

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Soaring bird

Taking Flight: NSF-Simons Center welcomes Gautam Reddy

September 1, 2019

We’d all love to soar like an eagle on occasion. Gautam Reddy figured out the math that makes it possible.

Soaring birds ‘cheat’ with some frequency. They find thermals – rising columns of air – which they can use to their advantage. By hopping from thermal to thermal, soaring birds can make the air work for them, pushing them high into the air without any flapping required.

Reddy spent his graduate career at UC San Diego working chiefly on this thermal soaring behavior of birds. He determined which variables can be used to efficiently find and harness thermals....

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Extavour

Digitize, debunk, discover: Extavour group overturns dogma of developmental biology

July 3, 2019

Eggs come in all sizes and shapes, depending on the species. Cassandra Extavour wants to understand why.

The professor of Organismic & Evolutionary biology and of Molecular & Cellular Biology at Harvard University has been fascinated by animal development since she was an undergraduate. In particular, Extavour has made major breakthroughs in the understanding of embryos and germ cells (eggs and sperm). But for many years, she was slightly isolated in her pursuit. Traditionally when biologists try to understand the evolution of egg cells, they have focused on a small...

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QuantBio Student Awards 2019 Announcement

March 11, 2019

We are pleased to announce that QuantBio is now accepting applications for our second annual Graduate Student Award for students G2 and higher with PhD advisors in FAS and SEAS. The Quantitative Biology Initiative at Harvard seeks to solve the most fundamental questions in the life sciences using approaches at the interface of biology, mathematics, engineering, statistics, and computation. We are pleased to offer salary and tuition support to select Harvard PhD students from any FAS or SEAS department pursuing projects relevant to this mission.

 

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Needle in a haystack

Finding a Neuron in a Haystack: Ramanathan lab develops new strategy for assessing causality in complex networks

December 20, 2018

How do cells give rise to behavior? This fundamental question has been remarkably difficult to answer over the last century. Why?

“Not all cells in the brain are created equal,” says Dr. B.N. Queenan, Executive Director of Research of Harvard’s Quantitative Biology Initiative. “Different neurons control different aspects of behavior.” Considering the large number of neurons in most organisms – from flies (250,000) to mice (71...

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Lord of the wings

How to Build a Dragonfly: Rycroft group reveals mathematical principles that build insect wings

September 17, 2018

Just by looking at spots and stripes, you could identify a tiger from a cheetah, or a giraffe from a zebra. For people who love insects, they can do the same. Different insects have distinct patterns on their wings. Without even seeing the body of the insect, it’s possible to pick out a dragonfly versus a mayfly or a fruitfly or a damselfly.

“In many insect species, wings are like human fingerprints,” says Christopher Rycroft,...

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