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Workshop: Re-imagining a cellular space occupied by condensates

Date October 11, 2022 - October 13, 2022
Website https://theroglab.org/condensates
Organizers Janet Iwasa, Department of Biochemistry, University of Utah Ofer Rog, School of Biological Sciences, University of Utah
Venue University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT 84112 United States
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Molecular condensates have emerged as a provocative new way to understand how cells and nuclei are organized. Rather than a dense and mostly disordered soup of macromolecules, this novel understanding suggests that the cell is occupied by numerous droplets, each comprised of a small number of member macromolecules that preferentially interact with each other. In the last decade, many such condensates have been described, along with the specific molecular interactions that regulate their formation and dispersion. Key tenets of modern cell biology are challenged by the concept of condensates. For example, the function and localization of many macromolecules have traditionally been defined by tight and specific interactions between two molecular species. In contrast, condensates underscore the importance of understanding labile and multivalent molecular interfaces. The popularly held view of the cytoplasm as a densely-packed but dynamic space where macromolecules can diffuse largely unobstructed is also being challenged. The presence of condensates suggests that, rather than random walks that explore space by seemingly aimless roaming, diffusion in the cell should perhaps be thought of as travel along molecular thoroughfares that circumvent condensates.

We seek to build a community that will construct a visual language and new tools that will accurately capture the complexity of molecular condensates. These representations will help generate experimentally-testable hypotheses, and will lead to the development of new techniques for scientific communication and teaching. Participants will include experts from diverse disciplines to re-imagine cellular space: about one-third of the participants will be biologists actively engaged in condensate research, one-third will be visualization and computation specialists, including modeling experts, data visualization specialists, and molecular animators, and one-third will come from fields that are not commonly engaged with molecular biology but that have long been thinking about space and ways to represent it. Together, we will rethink the ways we represent cellular space and its many denizens, including condensates. How do graphical representations of cells and macromolecules impact our thinking of cellular space? How do lab techniques, which typically probe only a handful of components at a time, shape our understanding of cellular organization? How do we best communicate ideas and intuitions about cellular space to colleagues and students? And how do representations of cellular space impact our scientific questions and our conceptualization of how condensates function?

In addition to scientists studying biomolecular condensates, scientific illustrators/animators, and software developers, we encourage applicants from diverse fields to apply, including those in the fields of architecture, design, urbanism, and cognitive science.

The workshop will include a public symposium that will take place at the Crocker Science Center at the University of Utah, on October 11, 2022.

The symposium will be followed by a 2-day workshop at the Park City Resort will take place October 12-13, 2022.

Attendee travel (within the U.S.) and accommodation costs will be covered.

We especially encourage applications from individuals at an early career stage and those belonging to groups that are traditionally marginalized within the sciences.