The Bugaj Lab studies how cell signaling drives cell behavior.
Our goal is to determine how cells interpret their complex environments through space and time to make essential decisions like whether to divide, differentiate, or die. In particular, we focus on understanding how cells perceive information in the strength, dynamics, and combinations of signals, and how these signal parameters specify cell fate. Towards these goals, our lab develops innovative light activatible – or, optogenetic – methods to probe cell function with exquisite spatial and temporal precision. We combine wet lab experiments with computational modeling to study diverse processes including stem cell differentiation, organogenesis, and the misregulation of cell growth in cancer. We are a highly interdisciplinary group that draws on techniques and theory from cell biology, imaging, electrical engineering, signal processing, information theory and computer science. We integrate these approaches to uncover the operational principles of cell signaling and behavior, ultimately enabling predictive cellular control and engineering for therapeutic and industrial applications.