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“Liquid-liquid phase separation in biology” now out in Annual Reviews

Everything you ever wanted to know about our current understanding of cytoplasmic organization by phase separation, from the physics behind it to the consequences for disease, in one comprehensive review:

Hyman AA, Weber CA, Jülicher F. Liquid-liquid phase separation in biology. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2014 Oct 11;30:39-58.

Congratulations to Tony, Frank Jülicher, and Christoph Weber (a postdoc in Frank’s lab)!

Impact of water in a water-surface

Image credit: Marlon Felippe, Wikimedia Commons

Town Hall on Preprints in Woods Hole today

If you’re in Woods Hole, join Tony, Ron Vale, Jessica Polka, and Daniel Cólon-Ramos for a town hall discussion on preprints in the life sciences @ 4pm in Rowe Auditorium. For more info on this initiative, visit ASAPbio.org.asapbiotownhall

Congratulations to Mark on his paper in Biology Open examining the genetic link between temperature and fertility in nematodes. Plus – video abstract!

Congratulations to Mark Leaver on his publication in Biology Open, which is open access and available now online! Click here for the full text. And watch Mark’s 2 minute video abstract below!

Leaver M, Kienle S, Begasse ML, Sommer RJ, Hyman AA. A locus in Pristionchus pacificus that is responsible for the ability to give rise to fertile offspring at higher temperatures. Biology Open 2016: doi: 10.1242/bio.018127

Written and narrated by Mark Leaver. Edited and produced by Lisa Dennison.

For related content, see Maria Begasse’s video abstract and Mark’s first Two Minute Talk.

Tony at the bench

We’ve been sent some proof that Tony, Jeff, and Richard are hard at work in Woods Hole. :)2016-07-06-PHOTO-00000189 IMG_1904

Tony, Jeff, & Richard are in Woods Hole!

Tony arrives today at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL). He and two of our postdocs, Jeff Woodruff and Richard Wheeler, are there for the Summer Institute. So if you’re also at Woods Hole this summer, keep an eye out for them and say hello!

• July 11, 11:30am: Jeff and Richard will give back-to-back seminars in Lillie 103.
• July 14, 9:00am: Tony will be giving the Albert Szent-Györgyi Endowed Lecture in the Lillie Auditorium.

GRC on Intrinsically Disordered Proteins

Tony is back from giving a talk on “Aberrant Phase Transitions and Disease” at the Gordon Research Conference on Intrinsically Disordered Proteins in Les Diablerets, Switzerland. Thanks to the chairs, Richard Kriwacki and Monika Fuxreiter, for organizing such a fantastic meeting!

Behind the scenes at “Latest Thinking”

Here’s a sneak peek behind the scenes at an interview Tony recently did for a new enterprise called “Latest Thinking”, which aims to “make the most up-to-date knowledge accessible and understandable to everyone.” Stay tuned for links to Tony’s video and the Latest Thinking platform when they go public!

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Hyman Lab retreat in Poland

Take a look at the Hyman Lab’s trip to Poland last month! We had two and a half days of lively scientific discussions and fun at the beautiful Pałac Brunów in Lwówek Śląski, Poland. Lab members gave chalk talks on the topic of their scientific question and what they hope to achieve in the coming year. This format lent itself to productive, engaging, and interactive discussions about ongoing work in the lab and the direction in which the lab is headed. We also had a great time kayaking down a river and taking an Urbhanize class with Christina!

Thank you to everyone for a great retreat, with a special thanks to Christina and the organizing committee for planning everything so well. We are already looking forward to next year!

poland group photo plus mark3


“Priority of Discovery” published in eLife

Ron Vale and Tony just published a “Point of View” essay in eLife: Priority of Discovery in the Life Sciences. Read the full text for free on eLife!

This is an updated version of the white paper that they originally published on the ASAPBio website.

Dresden named the most “women-friendly” city in Germany

According to a ranking published in “Focus” magazine, Dresden is the most women-friendly city in the country! The study takes into account job opportunities, income equality, fun and leisure, and crimes against women and ranks the 77 largest cities in Germany accordingly. Dresden was named #1, scoring high on equality for women and quality of life. Read more and watch a related video at this link (in German).

“Rescuing Biomedical Research” releases statement on new overtime rule in US

The”Rescuing Biomedical Research” initiative (of which Tony is a steering committee member) has released a statement urging American universities to increase the pay of postdoctoral scholars across the country “to better reflect their level of education, expertise and value to the biomedical research community.” The statement advises universities in light of the new rule from the US Department of Labor regarding overtime pay.

You can read the full statement from Rescuing Biomedical Research here.

Congratulations to Kate Lee, winner of the 2016 UNESCO-L’Oreal Women in Science Award

We are so proud of our postdoc Kate Lee, one of three winners in the country of the 2016 Women in Science awards from UNESCO and L’Oreal. Kate’s work linking liquid-to-solid phase transitions in cells to neurodegenerative disease was published in Cell last year. Read the MPI-CBG Press Release on Kate’s award below!

Kate Lee is one of three awardees of the 2016 WOMEN IN SCIENCE awards. The award honors and supports young female scientists in combining their career and family life. Kate Lee is a postdoc in the lab of Tony Hyman and works on understanding how proteins turn into pathological aggregates in neurodegenerative diseases upon aging.

The “For Women in Science” Program was created by the UNESCO Commission and the L’Oréal Foundation. Together with the foundation of Nobel Laureate Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, they honor and support young female scientists who are also mothers. Three awardees are identified each year and receive 20,000 Euro each to support them in combining their career and their family lives: 400 Euro a month help to finance child care or household help. With this support, women in science get a chance to spend more time with their families while furthering their careers. Half of the prize money goes to the institute to implement measurements that help to improve the work-life balance for young families.

“What’s next, Anthony Hyman?” – an interview with the Bavarian State Opera

Tony was interviewed for “Was folgt” (translation: “What’s next”), a publication from the Bayerische Staatsoper (Bavarian State Opera). Tony answers questions like, “How does the past influence your current thoughts and actions?”; “How can people predict the consequences of what they do?”; and “Is it possible to start over in life?”

Read the interview here (in German): “Was folgt, Anthony Hyman?” or on the Staatoper website at the following link, pages 28-29.

New paper submitted to arXiv – “Growth and division of active droplets: a model for protocells”

Check out our latest paper on arXiv. We look forward to your comments and feedback.

Growth and Division of Active Droplets: A Model for Protocells

David Zwicker, Rabea Seyboldt, Christoph A. Weber, Anthony A. Hyman, Frank Jülicher

It has been proposed that during the early steps in the origin of life, small droplets could have formed via the segregation of molecules from complex mixtures by phase separation. These droplets could have provided chemical reaction centers. However, whether these droplets could divide and propagate is unclear. Here we examine the behavior of droplets in systems that are maintained away from thermodynamic equilibrium by an external supply of energy. In these systems, droplets grow by the addition of droplet material generated by chemical reactions. Surprisingly, we find that chemically driven droplet growth can lead to shape instabilities that trigger the division of droplets into two smaller daughters. Therefore, chemically active droplets can exhibit cycles of growth and division that resemble the proliferation of living cells. Dividing active droplets could serve as a model for prebiotic protocells, where chemical reactions in the droplet play the role of a prebiotic metabolism.

Congratulations to Julia Mahamid on her paper in Science visualizing the nuclear periphery in stunning new detail

Congratulations to our joint postdoc, Julia Mahamid (based in the Baumeister lab), and colleagues on their recent publication in Science! This work utilizes cutting-edge developments in cryo-electron tomography to produce detailed 3D images of the nuclear periphery, revealing new information about its molecular organization.

Visualizing the molecular sociology at the HeLa cell nuclear periphery.
Mahamid J, Pfeffer S, Schaffer M, Villa E, Danev R, Cuellar LK, Förster F, Hyman AA, Plitzko JM, Baumeister W.
Science. 2016 Feb; 351(6276):969-72.


The molecular organization of eukaryotic nuclear volumes remains largely unexplored. Here we combined recent developments in cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) to produce three-dimensional snapshots of the HeLa cell nuclear periphery. Subtomogram averaging and classification of ribosomes revealed the native structure and organization of the cytoplasmic translation machinery. Analysis of a large dynamic structure-the nuclear pore complex-revealed variations detectable at the level of individual complexes. Cryo-ET was used to visualize previously elusive structures, such as nucleosome chains and the filaments of the nuclear lamina, in situ. Elucidation of the lamina structure provides insight into its contribution to metazoan nuclear stiffness.

“Priority of Discovery” – separating disclosure and validation

‘What Defines “Priority of Discovery” in the Life Sciences?’ — Read the full article

Today, Tony and Ron Vale published a white paper on the ASAPBio website in which they discuss the complexities of assigning “priority” for an original scientific discovery. They argue that priority of discovery is established in two distinct phases, disclosure and validation, and that the life science community would benefit from the separation of these two phases. They suggest that the disclosure phase is best served by the use of preprints which meet 4 specific criteria. Regarding the validation phase, they argue that peer-reviewed journals “provide the present-day gold standard,” but new mechanisms could arise in the future. Click the link above to read the full article!

And make sure to check out the ASAPBio meeting on Feb 16-17, which will discuss the use of preprints in biology. The meeting will be streamed online, and you can interact on Twitter with the hashtag #ASAPbio. You can also provide feedback ahead of time by filling out this short survey, or you may submit a white paper of your own.

Ideas on “How to build a better PhD”

A recent article from Nature News by Julie Gould tackles the topic of “How to build a better PhD.” In the article, I discuss the idea of having multiple PhD tracks, one bound for academia, and another so-called “vocational” track which would provide intensive science training for use in non-academic careers. As discussed in the article, a similar two-track system already exists in engineering: 

“Students in the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Germany can choose to study for either an academic-style PhD in engineering or a doctorate in engineering (EngD), which is designed with industrial careers in mind and often involves a supervisor in industry alongside one in academia. David Stanley, who manages an EngD programme that focuses on nuclear engineering at the University of Manchester, UK, says that … ‘Graduates with an EngD are highly valued in industry, more than those with PhDs, because of their extended training.’”

As noted by Melanie Sinche from the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, there is high demand among employers for a expert computational biologists, and a vocational PhD could be a great way to train people for non-academic careers in computational biology. 

In Singapore, for example, the SkillsFuture initiative includes new efforts to provide more industry-relevant and vocational training. Importantly, a key goal of SkillsFuture is to ensure that credentials earned on one track can be appropriately recognized by other tracks.

There is no reason to assert, as science blogger Leonid Schneider has, that a vocational PhD track would be second-class, less demanding, or lower paid than an academic track PhD. It would simply be a means to provide better training for different career paths, which the majority of PhD students ultimately follow. Indeed, as highlighted by Jessica Polka in her ASCB infographic, “Where Will a Biology PhD Take You?” a faculty position is the true “alternative” career, with <8% of entering PhD students ultimately becoming tenure-track faculty. Any inherent assumption that non-academic careers (and by association a PhD track which better trains for those careers) are somehow inferior to a career in academia seems to ignore the success of vocational training. As we have already seen in the engineering field, graduates of their vocational track are highly valued and better prepared for careers in industry.  It is therefore essential that the modern PhD is tailored to the needs of the workforce.

-Tony Hyman

Biscuit, the group leader

Here’s a short, funny clip that was filmed as part of a movie for the birthday celebration and symposium of MPI-CBG Director Eli Knust. If only Eli had let Tony make Biscuit a new group leader when she was the managing director!

ASCB, when the “S” stands for surfing

Tony, Avinash, Jeff, and Shamba had a great time at the ASCB meeting in San Diego last month. Tony and Jeff even managed to get in a surfing session! Here’s a few photos, snapped by Avinash.

Happy holidays from the Hyman Lab!

Here’s a photo from last week’s annual lab Christmas market outing (with lots of glühwein on hand). Wishing everyone wonderful holidays and a happy new year!

photo by Mark Leaver

photo by Mark Leaver


On xenophobia in Dresden, and its effect on research

Tony was interviewed for a recent article in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, where he discussed how the presence of the xenophobic group Pegida in Dresden is affecting the MPI-CBG. Click to read the article (article in German).