The Howard group combines simple, predictive mathematical modelling with long-lasting experimental collaborations, to dissect biological mechanisms too complex to unravel by experiments alone.
In many cases, they are able resolve complex biological dynamics into systems with few components and relatively simple interactions. Their approach is highly interdisciplinary, and relies heavily on the techniques of statistical physics and applied mathematics, as well as on close collaboration with experimental groups.
The group is currently focusing on three main areas;
- How cells remember past events, through epigenetic memory systems
- How cells control their size, through sizer mechanisms
- Spatiotemporal protein dynamics
Previous high-profile work in the group has revealed a reaction-diffusion mechanism for mid-cell division in E. coli, surface area-based dynamics of a cell sizer molecule in fission yeast, an arithmetic division mechanism for metabolic timing and an all-or-nothing epigenetic switching mechanism, with epigenetic gene silencing directly antagonised by transcription.
Yang H., Berry S., Olsson T. S. G., Hartley M., Howard M., Dean C. (2017)Distinct phases of Polycomb silencing to hold epigenetic memory of cold inArabidopsis.Science (357)Publisher's version: 0036-8075
Berry S., Dean C., Howard M. (2017)Slow Chromatin Dynamics Allow Polycomb Target Genes to Filter Fluctuations in Transcription Factor Activity.Cell Systems (4)Publisher's version: 2405-4712
Berry S., Hartley M., Olsson T. S., Dean C., Howard M. (2015)Local chromatin environment of a Polycomb target gene instructs its own epigenetic inheritance.eLife (4)Publisher's version: 2050-084X