Chair's Letter

Welcome to the Skirball Institute and the Department of Cell Biology at NYU School of Medicine and the NYU Langone Medical Center. Every scientist in our institute  and department works in one way or another on basic cellular mechanisms that control essential aspects of cell behavior from the single cell to the multicellular level. Cells are the building blocks of every organism. Regulated gene expression determines the fate of individual cells. Cytoskeletal dynamics and regulated transport within the cell determine the polarity of migrating cells, the apical-basal structure of epithelia, and the dendrite - axonal organization of neurons. Regulated export and communication between cells determine how tissue types morph into organs. Moreover, specialized mechanisms of local cell-to-cell interactions as well as hormonal control determine proliferation, growth, renewal and regeneration of tissues. At the organismal level, these interactions decide, for example, the balance between regeneration and aging, or a pro-and anti-inflammatory response.

Cell biology has no boundaries! Thus, as a discipline, cell biology crosses all traditional areas of biology. In particular, cellular approaches in neurobiology, developmental biology, stem cell biology, structural biology, pathogenesis and immunology are strongly represented in the institute and department. Our research is connected by the fact that fundamental principles of cell biology underlie the behavior of every cell and organ in every organism including humans.  By studying genes in model organisms such as fly, worm, mouse or zebrafish as well as human tissue-derived cells, scientists in the institute and department strive to learn basic principles about the normal function of genes in the human genome and gain understanding of changes that occur in disease and during aging.

We have witnessed amazing technological progress in all areas of science in the last decade.  Classical biological approaches such as molecular biology, genetics, genomics and biochemistry can now be matched with approaches such as high-resolution imaging, computational biology, small molecule chemistry and bio-engineering originating from other areas of science, like physics, mathematics, chemistry and engineering. Therefore rather than organizing the research groups within the institute and department along traditional lines of biological disciplines, our scientists synergize in three transdisciplinary areas, that roughly follow the cell from the nucleus to the cytoplasm to the cell surface and beyond.

  • Genome Integrity and Interpretation, with focus on the mechanisms of protection and change that occur during development to form an organism and are ongoing as the organism experiences its environment.  
  • Cellular Dynamics, with emphasis on the quantitative analysis of cellular structure as it relates to cellular organelles, cell junctions, cell polarity and cell migration.
  • Metabolic signaling, which combines systematic analysis of cell signaling and cell communication and how these interactions influence and are influenced by the organism.

The transdisciplinary nature of our department and institute reflects that diseases affect the entire body and, in general, do not stop at a tissue or organ. Thus, approaches and findings made, for example, in the immune system may well prove relevant to the study of the nervous system and vice versa. Following this principle and to make this website useful to scientists in the department and institute and visitors alike, the interests of our research faculty are presented interactively by research area, disease-focus and approach used.