Michael J. Rust, Ph.D.

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, Department of Physics
Institution
University of Chicago
Address
900 E 57th Street
KCBD 10124
City, State, Zip
Chicago, IL 60637
Phone
(773) 834-1463
E-mail
mrust[at]uchicago.edu
Website
http://rustlab.uchicago.edu/
Research Field
Systems Biology
Award Year
2014

Research

The goal of my research is to understand how the components of a circadian clock work together to ensure that an organism can monitor and respond to its environment. Many organisms, from bacteria to humans, possess a circadian clock that allows them to synchronize their activities with the time of day. This biological circuit is particularly critical in photosynthetic organisms, which rely on sunlight to produce their food. As a postdoctoral fellow, I showed how the components of a circadian clock isolated from a photosynthetic bacterium could correctly “keep time” in a test tube, with one of the components periodically switching itself on and off over a 24-hour cycle. Now, using a suite of biochemical and biophysical analyses and mathematical modeling, my laboratory will reconstitute circadian components to assess how other clocks function and how they allow organisms to respond correctly to fluctuating environmental conditions, such as an unexpected period of darkness on a stormy day. This work will enhance our understanding of biological clocks and could offer clues to coping with the conditions of modern life, including shift work and jet lag, which pose challenges for our own circadian rhythms.