The Rich Inner Life of the Cell Nucleus: Dynamic Organization, Active Flows and Emergent Rheology

  • Speaker
  • Alexandra ZidovskaAssociate Professor of Physics, Center for Soft Matter Research, New York University
Date & Time

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The nucleus is the cell’s control center, containing genetic material essential for life. Yet, the physical principles underlying its organization in space and time remain a mystery.

In this talk, Alexandra Zidovska will present work from her group revealing that the biophysical complexity of the nucleus can be organized around three inter-related and interactive facets: heterogeneity, activity and rheology. Most nuclear constituents are sites of active, ATP-dependent processes and are thus inherently dynamic. The genome undergoes constant rearrangement, the nuclear envelope flickers and fluctuates, nucleoli migrate and coalesce, and many of these events are mediated by nucleoplasmic flows and interactions. And yet there is spatiotemporal organization in terms of the hierarchical structure of the genome, its coherently moving regions and membrane-less compartmentalization via phase-separated nucleoplasmic constituents. Moreover, the non-equilibrium or activity-driven nature of the nucleus gives rise to emergent rheology and material properties that impact all cellular processes via the central dogma of molecular biology. New biophysical insights into the cell nucleus can come from appreciating this rich inner life.

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About the Speaker

Zidovska is an associate professor of physics at the Center for Soft Matter Research at New York University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara after she completed her undergraduate studies and M.Sc. at the Technical University of Munich. She pursued her postdoctoral studies at Harvard University.

Zidovska held the prestigious Damon Runyon Cancer Research Fellowship from 2010 to 2012, was named a Whitehead fellow in 2016 and a Soft Matter Emerging Investigator in 2022. In addition, she is a recipient of the National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Award, the National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the 2020 Michele Auger Award in Biophysics. Her current research uses soft condensed matter physics and polymer physics approaches to study the cell nucleus and its constituents, such as the genome and subnuclear bodies, particularly their dynamics and spatial organization.

She is also passionately engaged in causes related to diversity and inclusion in physics and related sciences. Her lab has an impressive record of recruiting, training and promoting women scientists across all levels. In addition, Zidovska is the founder and faculty leader of a new group — NYU Women in Physics — dedicated to providing a more welcoming and stimulating environment for women and those from other underrepresented groups in physics.

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