Damon Runyon Researchers

Meet Our Scientists
Youngmu (Nick) Shin, PhD

Cells in our body communicate with each other in a highly selective manner. These cell-cell interactions form the basis of numerous physiological functions, such as neuronal wiring and immune recognition. Dr. Shin plans to explore the general principles of cell-cell communication by constructing a synthetic synapse and studying its organization and functional diversity. His findings will elucidate the mechanisms that organize cell-cell interfaces involved in immune cell recognition of cancer and in the cell-type transitions associated with cancer and metastasis. This work will also provide a platform for engineering highly customized cell-cell interfaces, which may prove useful in engineering immune cell therapeutics.

This project employs the stickers-and-spacers model adapted from polymer physics. Macromolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids are described as a sequence of attractive domains called "stickers" and flexible, non-interacting domains called "spacers." Dr. Shin will  use his lab's Monte Carlo simulation engine LaSSI (Lattice simulation engine for Sticker and Spacer Interactions) to calculate the average interactions between macromolecules and analyze their mesoscopic organization and phase properties.

Project title: "Exploring phase condensation as a general mechanism for organizing cell-cell communication assemblies"
Institution: University of California, San Francisco / Washington University
Award Program: Quantitative Biology Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Wendell A. Lim, PhD (University of California, San Francisco), and Rohit V. Pappu, PhD (Washington University)
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Cell Biology