Heads of Laboratories
Even the simplest of organisms, such as bacteria, are capable of processing information in a highly sophisticated manner, adapting to varying environments and evolving new functions. Dr. Leibler is interested in the quantitative description of microbial systems, both on cellular and population levels.
In recent years, the field of molecular biology has moved away from the study of individual components and toward the study of how they interact, creating a “systemic” approach that seeks an appropriate and quantitative description of cells and organisms. Dr. Leibler’s laboratory is developing both the theoretical and experimental methods necessary for conducting studies on the collective behavior of biomolecules, cells and organisms. By selecting a number of basic questions on how simple genetic and biochemical networks function in bacteria, his lab is beginning to understand how individual components can give rise to complex, collective phenomena.
Recent research topics in the laboratory include quantitative studies of interacting microorganisms. In particular, the question of the survival of microbial populations in varying environments is being addressed both experimentally and theoretically. Dr. Leibler and his collaborators are developing new experimental techniques that will facilitate quantitative analysis of long-time population dynamics in microbial populations. In parallel, they are developing statistical methods for the so-called inverse problems, in which the interactions between different components of a biological system are deduced from measured statistical correlations. Long-term dynamics of closed microbial ecosystems are being analyzed by these inverse methods. Similar theoretical approaches are also applied to other types of data, such as spiking activity of retinal neuron assemblies or evolution of protein families.
Dr. Leibler did his undergraduate studies in physics at the University of Warsaw. He received three degrees from the University of Paris: an M.S. in theoretical physics in 1979, a Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1981 and a second Ph.D. in physics in 1984. He spent a year at the École Normale Supérieure and became a tenured research fellow at the Centre d’Études de Saclay in 1984, staying until 1992. Dr. Leibler was also a visiting research associate at Cornell University from 1985 to 1987 and a visiting professor at the École Supérieure de Physique et Chimie Industrielles from 1989 to 1991. Dr. Leibler moved to Princeton University in 1992 as a professor in the department of physics, becoming a professor in the department of molecular biology in 1993. He spent the year from 1997 to 1998 as a visiting scientist at the European Molecular Biological Laboratories in Heidelberg, Germany.
During his last year at Princeton, from 2000 to 2001, Dr. Leibler was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. He moved to Rockefeller in 2001 and was a Tri-Institutional professor at Weill Cornell Medical College and the Sloan-Kettering Institute from 2003 to 2010. Since April 2009 Dr. Leibler has been sharing his time between Rockefeller and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where he is a professor at the School of Natural Sciences.
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