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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

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).

Look for us at ASCB 2015!

tile-2015meeting3It’s almost time for the 2015 ASCB meeting in San Diego! Will you be there? If so, don’t miss Tony’s talk, and say hello to our lab members who will be there giving talks and presenting posters. Here’s where you can find the Hyman Lab at #ASCB15

Sunday, December 13. Poster session (for even numbered boards): 1:30pm-3:00pm
• Avinash Patel, Board Number B1412. “Dissecting the mechanisms of liquid to solid phase transition of the ALS protein FUS.”

• Shambaditya Saha, Board Number B1446. “In vitro reconstitution of a non-membrane-bound P granule-like compartment.”

• Jeff Woodruff, Board Number B644. “Depletion attraction forces modulate centrosome assembly and shape.”

Monday, December 14. Symposium 4 – Like Oil and Water: New Principles Governing Cell Organization. Session begins at 9:45am.
• Tony Hyman’s talk, “Phase separation in cytoplasm: Implications for polarity and neurodegeneration.”

Wednesday, December 16. Minisymposium 25: Organelle Homeostasis and Turnover. Session begins at 8:30am.
• Avinash Patel’s talk, “Dissecting the mechanisms of liquid to solid phase transition of the ALS protein FUS.”

Today: Tony gives CIG Seminar at the University of Lausanne

Today, Tony is the final speaker of the Center for Integrative Genomics (CIG) Fall Seminar Series at the University of Lausanne. He will give his talk at 12:15, titled “Liquid-like compartments in cells: implications for polarity and neurodegenerative disease.

New publication: A human interactome in 3 quantitative dimensions

Congratulations to Marco Hein, Nina Hubner, our own Ina Poser, and colleagues on their new publication in Cell, “A human interactome in three quantitative dimensions organized by stoichiometries and abundances.” This is a truly impressive body of work which globally analyzes protein interactions in order to better understand protein networks and cell organization. This dataset connects 5,400 proteins with 28,500 interactions and shows that weak interactions dominate the protein network.

human interactome graphical abstract

A Human Interactome in Three Quantitative Dimensions Organized by Stoichiometries and Abundances. Hein MY, Hubner NC, Poser I, Cox J, Nagaraj N, Toyoda Y, Gak IA, Weisswange I, Mansfeld J, Buchholz F, Hyman AA, Mann M. Cell. 2015 Oct 22;163(3):712-23. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.09.053. Epub 2015 Oct 22.

“Protein ‘drops’ may seed brain disease” – Article in Science about our FUS paper and others’ recent work

A new Science “In Depth” article by Ken Garber tells the story of 4 recent papers (including our publication on the protein FUS) published in Cell and Molecular Cell which all focus on protein droplet formation and the potential for this process to cause disease when it goes awry.

You can also find a German translation of the article in the newspaper “Süddeutschse Zeitung.”

“Publish and perish?” Seminar in Stockholm on publishing, peer review, and evaluation. Updated with links to videos!

Sept 30, 2015: Tony was one of the speakers at today’s “Publish and perish?” seminar at The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. The seminar focuses on “the rapidly changing nature of scientific publishing, peer review, and evaluation,” and the impact on science and young scientists. Tony’s talk is titled “Encouraging innovation through peer review and evaluation.” Follow along on twitter with the hashtag #pubnperish.

UPDATE on Oct 5: You can now find videos of all of the talks on the youtube channel of the Young Academy of Sweden — https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC844oOhn72r7zrd2ri6dO2Q

And you can watch Tony’s talk below!

Tony speaking at "Publish and perish." Photo by @Ungaakademin

Tony speaking at “Publish and perish.” Photo by @Ungaakademin

Run & Roll raised €40,000 for refugees’ medical care!

Yesterday’s Run & Roll event was a huge success! Over 3,000 people participated, including many members of the MPI-CBG, and as a result, €40,000 was raised to open a special clinic for refugees in Dresden and surrounding areas. Read more in articles from the MPG and from the German news site DNN. Congratulations to the organizers for putting on such a well-run and worthwhile event, and many thanks to all who participated for this good cause! It was lots of fun.

just a few of the many MPI-CBG members who participated in or volunteered at the Run & Roll! Photo credit: Felipe Mora-Bermudez

Here are just a few of the MPI-CBG members who participated in or volunteered at the Run & Roll!
Photo credit: Felipe Mora-Bermudez


Annual lab retreat in Meissen

The Hyman lab went on our second annual retreat to the town of Meissen on September 4. Tony gave his annual vision talk, we had lots of great discussions, and then went on a walk around the beautiful Meissen Altstadt (old city). See a few photos of the day below!

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Congratulations to “Dresden – Place to Be,” winner of Citizen’s Prize for commitment to creating a welcoming culture in Dresden for immigrants and refugees

Congratulations to chairwoman Elisabeth Ehninger and the entire association of “Dresden – Place to Be“, honored yesterday by the German Press with the 6th annual Citizen of the Year prize. “Dresden – Place to Be” is an organization committed to creating an open and welcoming culture in our city for all immigrants and refugees. MPI-CBG Directors Tony Hyman and Kai Simons are both founding members of the organization.

In January of this year, “Dresden – Place to Be” organized the Dresden “Open and Colorful” concert to signal to the world that most citizens of Dresden felt differently about immigrants than those marching with Pegida. This was just the first of many events to promote openness, tolerance, and internationality in Dresden. The next major event will be the Run and Roll fundraiser to provide better medical care for refugees in and around Dresden.

Congratulations again to “Dresden – Place to Be,” and thank you for your commitment to making our city a welcoming and supportive place for all.

Run and Roll! Fundraiser for Refugees on Oct 4

The MPI-CBG is one of the organizers of a huge upcoming charity event for refugees: “Run and Roll! Dresden gets moving!” This fundraiser will specifically raise money to improve the medical care for refugees in and around Dresden. Participants can run/walk the 5.7km course around the Großer Garten in Dresden, or “roll” the course on anything with wheels! (check out Tony rolling by in a desk chair in the support video below)

Donations are welcome, whether or not you can participate in the event. Please visit their website for more information!

Rescuing Biomedical Research — join the discussion about how to address the flaws in the system

Tony is a member of the steering committee for the “Rescuing Biomedical Research” initiative, which publicly launched its website today. Read the press release here.

Please visit the website to learn more about the problems we face, the progress that’s being made, and most importantly, to give your input on topics ranging from training to funding to evaluation.