In Plain English: Paul Magwene

Deep in the darkest recesses of a cell something determines its fate:  How will it react to food or famine?  Should it grow and divide?  Into two identical daughter cells, or four daughters with mixed-up chromosomes?

Paul Magwene wants not only to know how a yeast cell decides to behave, but to watch it do so in real time.  He studies a signalling pathway, a series of chemical reactions which transmits signals from the exterior of the cell to the nucleus.  There it turns particular genes on or off, determining the cell's behavior.  Paul tries to match genetic variation in this pathway to different cell fates. 

Right now his lab is adapting a cool technique that will make yeast cells fluoresce when the pathway is stimulated.  If it works, they can expose cells with different versions of the pathway to different stimuli, and watch how it lights up!

Meanwhile Paul is teaching himself to play the piano.  He’s especially interested in creating music with algorithms or formal rules, just as DNA governs an organism by varying the sequence of four bases.  Is there a G-C-A-T Symphony in his future?