Biomolecular Phase Separation
The interior of a cell is organized in both space and time by non-membrane bound compartments, many of which form via liquid-liquid phase separation. These phase-separated condensates play key roles in processes ranging from transcription to translation, metabolism, signaling, and more. Unlike conventional phase separation, e.g. the demixing of oil and water, the underlying interactions that drive biomolecular phase separation are complex, typically involving both specific and non-specific interactions and often among multiple components. These interactions are regulated by the cell in ways that allow condensates to carry out specific biological functions, yet the complexity of these interactions poses challenges to understanding how the microscopic features of biomolecules lead to the macroscopic properties and functions of condensates. We utilize physical, mathematical, and computational tools and work closely with experimental groups to address questions, such as: How do microscopic variables of biomolecules determine the macroscopic phase diagram and physical properties of the condensates? And how do these macroscopic properties impact the condensates' biological functions?