Cells ranging from those in the tissues of multi-cellular organisms to single-celled microbes respond to signals in the environment by modifying the expression of their genes. While recent technological advances have enabled us to measure and manipulate such gene expression responses genome-wide, little is known about the high-level capabilities and limitations of the genetic circuits that control these responses. Our long term goal is to gain a deeper, more quantitative understanding of the relation between the signals present in the cell’s environment and the information processing and other events which they trigger inside cells. In particular, we aim to identify general principles that capture key properties of gene regulatory responses. To this end, we combine quantitative experiments, often based on fluorescence measurements in single cells or entire populations, with theoretical approaches from physics. Whenever possible we measure and interpret numbers, rather than pictures or qualitative effects.

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