Research Fellows Directory
Dr Thomas Ouldridge
Imperial College London
Cells are powered by a complex combination of molecular reactions. These processes allow sensing, information transmission, growth and locomotion, for example. We live at an exciting time when insights from across science combine to provide new understanding of these remarkable systems. As we learn more, we can engineer molecular processes, altering existing components or develop our own artificial analogs. This approach is already used to produce molecules for the pharmaceutical, energy and cosmetic industries, among others. With more understanding, engineering cells or autonomous cell-like systems to perform complex tasks becomes a possibility. The potential of such systems in industry and medicine is enormous.
I focus on active biochemical processes. Cells use food to maintain certain molecules in an unstable state; these molecules drive microscopic processes similarly to petrol driving a car engine. Active processes are essential in living systems, and will be necessary in the artificial systems of the future. Fully understanding them is therefore crucial to comprehending life itself, and revealing the possibilities of synthetic systems.
One important use of biochemical fuel is to create long-lived copies or memories of other molecules. Without fuel, a molecule can only influence another by physically sticking to it and remaining bound. With fuel, a molecule can have an effect that persists long after it has detached. Long-lived copies are essential to cells: for example, they are made when proteins are constructed, and when signals about a cell's environment are transmitted.
I am combining theoretical modelling, simulation and experimental study to probe these copying processes. By identifying the fundamental principles, and exploring how these principles manifest themselves in concrete biophysical systems, I aim to improve our grasp of basic physics and contribute to the development of new molecular technologies.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)