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QBio Symposium: When Life Science and Natural Science meet

Dr. Katharina Sonnen

Dr. Katharina Sonnen

Her background

Katharina Sonnen is a principal investigator who researches signalling pathways and their dynamics, with the goal of understanding how information about development control and homeostasis is encoded. Katharina studied biochemistry and molecular biology before obtaining her PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry. She then worked as a postdoc for five years at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), in the Developmental Biology Unit, where she focused on microfluidic technology and the timing of mammalian embryogenesis. Since September 2018, she is a group leader at Hubrecht Institute, in Utrecht. The Sonnen group investigates how signalling pathway dynamics encode information to control development and homeostasis of multicellular systems.

Webpage: https://www.hubrecht.eu/research-groups/sonnen-group/

Her talk

How information is transmitted between cells to control cellular behavior in time and space remains a central question in biology. Tight coordination between cellular processes such as proliferation and differentiation is key to proper development and homeostasis of multicellular systems. While signal transduction pathways have long been studied in this context, only in recent years the function of signaling dynamics could be addressed experimentally. These studies revealed that biological information can be encoded in the temporal change of a signaling pathway, the dynamics. Encoding information in dynamics has multiple advantages for cells, such as increasing the versatility of signaling pathways, robustness to noise and orchestration of repetitive events.

During her talk, Katharina will present how they combine advanced light microscopy, quantitative reporter analysis, modulating dynamics by microfluidics and computational modeling to study how a network of signaling oscillations and gradients controls periodic segmentation of the mouse embryo.