The Rowat Lab studies the mechanics of biological materials and their role in physiology ranging from human health to the foods that we eat.

Our research efforts currently focus on understanding the role of cell physical phenotypes in functional behaviors, such as cancer cell invasion and metastasis. Many of the proteins that regulate cell physical properties, such as deformability and contractility, are essential in motility and mechanotransduction. Therefore developing mechanistic knowledge of cell physical phenotypes can provide novel insight into modulating cancerous behaviors of cells.

To address these questions, we use a multidisciplinary approach to probe cells, tissues, and organisms using complementary methods from physics, engineering, cell biology, systems biology, and comparative physiology. Some topics we are working on:

  • High-throughput techniques for screening cells based on mechanical phenotype
  • Altered physical properties and invasion of cancer cells
  • Shape stability of the cell nucleus
  • Physical properties of the plant cell nucleus
The physical properties and physiology of nuclei and cells are also interesting in the context of plants, animals, and the food that we eat. For example, why do some cells have a stiffness similar to Jell-o, while others are more like cream cheese? Food is rich with examples of scientific concepts, and is also an excellent way to engage students and a general audience in the excitement of scientific inquiry, the origins of what we eat, and the beauty of science in everyday life. Learn more on our Science & Food blog hosted by Discover Magazine. For more information about next year's Science & Food course and associated outreach and public events, stay tuned here.

Our work is supported by the National Science Foundation (CAREER DBI-1254185, BMMB-1906165), the Department of Defense (Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Pilot Award), the Good Food Institute, New Harvest, a UCLA Physical Sciences Entrepreneurship and Innovation Award, a UCLA Life Sciences Innovation Fund Award, the Hellman Foundation, the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation, the Broad Stem Cell Research Center, the University of California Cancer Research Coordinating Committee, the UCLA Office of Instructional Development, a UCLA Faculty Career Development Award, Biorad, and the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
October 3, 2019
Excited to have to Dr. Sammy Norris join our team!
May 1, 2019
Congratulations to PhD candidate Stephanie Kawecki on being awarded a New Harvest Fellowship.
November 29, 2018
Congratulations Dr. Gill for a successful PhD defense.
February 7, 2018
Amy Rowat is a Finalist for the 2018 SLAS Innovator Award.
August 25, 2017
Congratulations Dr. Nyberg on a successful PhD defense.
August 3, 2017
Congratulations Dr. Nguyen for a successful PhD defense.
April 25, 2017
Kendra awarded the Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award - first to an engineering student in 30 years! Read all about it here.