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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. 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 these components interact—a systemic approach that seeks an appropriate and quantitative description of cells and organisms. Leibler’s laboratory is developing both theoretical and experimental methods to conduct studies on the collective behavior of biomolecules, cells, and organisms. In selecting a number of basic questions about 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 how microbial populations survive in varying environments is being addressed both experimentally and theoretically. Leibler and his collaborators are developing new experimental techniques that will facilitate the quantitative analysis of long-time population dynamics in microbial populations. They are using statistical methods to analyze the long-term dynamics of closed microbial ecosystems, while applying theoretical approaches to other problems such as protein assemblies or the evolution of protein families.