Research Expertise and Interest


Research Description

Hernan Garcia is an assistant professor of genetics, genomics and development. 

Research: An abiding mystery in the study of living matter is how a single cell develops into a multicellular organism. As this cell divides, its progeny read the program encoded on their DNA and adopt different fates becoming familiar cell types such as those found in muscle, liver and our brains. We now know that the decisions that cells make during development are not so much based on which genes to express, but rather on when, where and how to express them. Despite advances in determining the identities of the molecules that mediate these decisions we are still incapable of predicting how simple physical parameters such as the number, position and affinity of binding sites for these molecules on the DNA determine developmental fates. In the Garcia lab, they use the fruit fly, one of the classic model systems for embryonic development, together with a combination of new technologies, quantitative experiments, and statistical mechanics in order to provide new insights about cellular decision making during development. In particular, they aim to link the specification of macroscopic body parts in an organism to the non-equilibrium molecular-scale processes inside single cells. The ultimate goal of this interdisciplinary research is to produce a predictive understanding of developmental programs which will enable the rational control of biological size, shape and function.

In the News

Using physics to search for meaning in the chaos of gene regulation

By applying ideas from theoretical physics, researchers are starting to develop a unified understanding of how genes are regulated. Below, graduate student Jonathan Liu explores the interface between physics and biology and discusses the field of biophysics with two researchers.

Sloan Foundation honors eight young faculty members

Eight UC Berkeley assistant professors are among 126 new fellows announced today by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Sloan Research Fellowships, awarded annually since 1955, honor early-career scientists and scholars.

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