# Publications

*Bacillus subtilis*. MreB motion is isotropic in round cells, and orientation is restored when rod shape is externally imposed. Stationary filaments orient within protoplasts, and purified MreB tubulates liposomes

*in vitro*, orienting within tubes. Together, this demonstrates MreB orients along the greatest principal membrane curvature, a conclusion supported with biophysical modeling. We observed that spherical cells regenerate into rods in a local, self-reinforcing manner: rapidly propagating rods emerge from small bulges, exhibiting oriented MreB motion. We propose that the coupling of MreB filament alignment to shape-reinforcing peptidoglycan synthesis creates a locally-acting, self-organizing mechanism allowing the rapid establishment and stable maintenance of emergent rod shape.

*E*.

*coli*and

*B*.

*subtilis*, regulation of cell-cycle progression and cellular organization achieves consistency in cell size, replication dynamics, and chromosome positioning [ 1–3 ]. Mycobacteria elongate and divide asymmetrically, giving rise to significant variation in cell size and elongation rate among closely related cells [ 4, 5 ]. Given the physical asymmetry of mycobacteria, the models that describe coordination of cellular organization and cell-cycle progression in model bacteria are not directly translatable [ 1, 2, 6–8 ]. Here, we used time-lapse microscopy and fluorescent reporters of DNA replication and chromosome positioning to examine the coordination of growth, division, and chromosome dynamics at a single-cell level in

*Mycobacterium smegmatis*(

*M. smegmatis*) and

*Mycobacterium bovis*Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG). By analyzing chromosome and replisome localization, we demonstrated that chromosome positioning is asymmetric and proportional to cell size. Furthermore, we found that cellular asymmetry is maintained throughout the cell cycle and is not established at division. Using measurements and stochastic modeling of mycobacterial cell size and cell-cycle timing in both slow and fast growth conditions, we found that well-studied models of cell-size control are insufficient to explain the mycobacterial cell cycle. Instead, we showed that mycobacterial cell-cycle progression is regulated by an unprecedented mechanism involving parallel adders (i.e., constant growth increments) that start at replication initiation. Together, these adders enable mycobacterial populations to regulate cell size, growth, and heterogeneity in the face of varying environments.

*Escherichia coli*. Nature Microbiology [Internet]. 2017;2 :17115. Publisher's VersionAbstract

*Escherichia coli*cells in doughnut-shaped microchambers, we find that the cells recovered their straight, native rod-shaped morphologies when released from captivity at a rate consistent with the theoretical prediction. We then measure the localization of MreB, an actin homologue crucial to cell wall synthesis, inside confinement and during the straightening process, and find that it cannot explain the plastic response to bending or the observed straightening rate. Our results implicate mechanical strain sensing, implemented by components of the elongasome yet to be fully characterized, as an important component of robust shape regulation in

*E. coli*.

At low temperatures the dynamical degrees of freedom in amorphous solids are tunneling two-level systems (TLSs). Concentrating on these degrees of freedom, and taking into account disorder and TLS-TLS interactions, we obtain a “TLS glass,” described by the random-field Ising model with random 1/r^3 interactions. In this paper we perform a self-consistent mean-field calculation, previously used to study the electron-glass (EG) model [A. Amir *et al.*, Phys. Rev. B **77**, 165207 (2008)]. Similarly to the electron glass, we find a 1/λ distribution of relaxation rates λ, leading to logarithmic slow relaxation. However, with increased interactions the EG model shows slower dynamics whereas the TLS-glass model shows faster dynamics. This suggests that given system-specific properties, glass dynamics can be slowed down or sped up by the interactions.

All organisms control the size of their cells. We focus here on the question of size regulation in bacteria, and suggest that the quantitative laws governing cell size and its dependence on growth rate may arise as byproducts of a regulatory mechanism which evolved to support multiple DNA replication forks. In particular, we show that the increase of bacterial cell size during Lenski’s long-term evolution experiments is a natural outcome of this proposal. This suggests that, in the context of evolution, cell size may be a 'spandrel'

We observe nonmonotonic aging and memory effects, two hallmarks of glassy dynamics, in two disordered mechanical systems: crumpled thin sheets and elastic foams. Under fixed compression, both systems exhibit monotonic nonexponential relaxation. However, when after a certain waiting time the compression is partially reduced, both systems exhibit a nonmonotonic response: the normal force first increases over many minutes or even hours until reaching a peak value, and only then is relaxation resumed. The peak time scales linearly with the waiting time, indicating that these systems retain long-lasting memory of previous conditions. Our results and the measured scaling relations are in good agreement with a theoretical model recently used to describe observations of monotonic aging in several glassy systems, suggesting that the nonmonotonic behavior may be generic and that athermal systems can show genuine glassy behavior.

Bacteria tightly regulate and coordinate the various events in their cell cycles to duplicate themselves accurately and to control their cell sizes. Growth of Escherichia coli, in particular, follows a relation known as Schaechter’s growth law. This law says that the average cell volume scales exponentially with growth rate, with a scaling exponent equal to the time from initiation of a round of DNA replication to the cell division at which the corresponding sister chromosomes segregate. Here, we sought to test the robustness of the growth law to systematic perturbations in cell dimensions achieved by varying the expression levels of mreB and ftsZ. We found that decreasing the mreB level resulted in increased cell width, with little change in cell length, whereas decreasing the ftsZ level resulted in increased cell length. Furthermore, the time from replication termination to cell division increased with the perturbed dimension in both cases. Moreover, the growth law remained valid over a range of growth conditions and dimension perturbations. The growth law can be quantitatively interpreted as a consequence of a tight coupling of cell division to replication initiation. Thus, its robustness to perturbations in cell dimensions strongly supports models in which the timing of replication initiation governs that of cell division, and cell volume is the key phenomenological variable governing the timing of replication initiation. These conclusions are discussed in the context of our recently proposed “adder-per-origin” model, in which cells add a constant volume per origin between initiations and divide a constant time after initiation.

Memory is one of the unique qualities of a glassy system. The relaxation of a glass to equilibrium contains information on the sample’s excitation history, an effect often refer to as “aging.” We demonstrate that under the right conditions a glass can also possess a different type of memory. We study the conductance relaxation of electron glasses that are fabricated at low temperatures. Remarkably, the dynamics are found to depend not only on the ambient measurement temperature but also on the maximum temperature to which the system was exposed. Hence the system “remembers” its highest temperature. This effect may be qualitatively understood in terms of energy barriers and local minima in configuration space and therefore may be a general property of the glass state.

One-dimensional photonic crystals with slowly varying, i.e. "chirped", lattice period are responsible for broadband light reflectance in many diverse biological contexts, ranging from the shiny coatings of various beetles to the eyes of certain butterflies. We present a quantum scattering analogy for light reflection from these adiabatically chirped photonic crystals (ACPCs) and apply a WKB-type approximation to obtain a closed-form expression for the reflectance. From this expression we infer several design principles, including a differential equation for the chirp pattern required to elicit a given reflectance spectrum and the minimal number of bilayers required to exceed a desired reflectance threshold. Comparison of the number of bilayers found in ACPCs throughout nature and our predicted minimal required number also gives a quantitative measure of the optimality of chirped biological reflectors. Together these results elucidate the design principles of chirped reflectors in nature and their possible application to future optical technologies.

In science, as in life, "surprises" can be adequately appreciated only in the presence of a null model, what we expect a priori. In physics, theories sometimes express the values of dimensionless physical constants as combinations of mathematical constants like pi or e. The inverse problem also arises, whereby the measured value of a physical constant admits a "surprisingly" simple approximation in terms of well-known mathematical constants. Can we estimate the probability for this to be a mere coincidence, rather than an inkling of some theory? We answer the question in the most naive form.

We consider a class of biologically-motivated stochastic processes in which a unicellular organism divides its resources (volume or damaged proteins, in particular) symmetrically or asymmetrically between its progeny. Assuming the final amount of the resource is controlled by a growth policy and subject to additive and multiplicative noise, we derive the "master equation" describing how the resource distribution evolves over subsequent generations and use it to study the properties of stable resource distributions. We find conditions under which a unique stable resource distribution exists and calculate its moments for the class of affine linear growth policies. Moreover, we apply an asymptotic analysis to elucidate the conditions under which the stable distribution (when it exists) has a power-law tail. Finally, we use the results of this asymptotic analysis along with the moment equations to draw a stability phase diagram for the system that reveals the counterintuitive result that asymmetry serves to increase stability while at the same time widening the stable distribution. We also briefly discuss how cells can divide damaged proteins asymmetrically between their progeny as a form of damage control. In the appendix, motivated by the asymmetric division of cell volume in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we extend our results to the case wherein mother and daughter cells follow different growth policies.

We explore the spectra and localization properties of the N-site banded one-dimensional non-Hermitian random matrices that arise naturally in sparse neural networks. Approximately equal numbers of random excitatory and inhibitory connections lead to spatially localized eigenfunctions and an intricate eigenvalue spectrum in the complex plane that controls the spontaneous activity and induced response. A finite fraction of the eigenvalues condense onto the real or imaginary axes. For large N, the spectrum has remarkable symmetries not only with respect to reflections across the real and imaginary axes but also with respect to 90∘ rotations, with an unusual anisotropic divergence in the localization length near the origin. When chains with periodic boundary conditions become directed, with a systematic directional bias superimposed on the randomness, a hole centered on the origin opens up in the density-of-states in the complex plane. All states are extended on the rim of this hole, while the localized eigenvalues outside the hole are unchanged. The bias-dependent shape of this hole tracks the bias-independent contours of constant localization length. We treat the large-Nlimit by a combination of direct numerical diagonalization and using transfer matrices, an approach that allows us to exploit an electrostatic analogy connecting the “charges” embodied in the eigenvalue distribution with the contours of constant localization length. We show that similar results are obtained for more realistic neural networks that obey “Dale's law” (each site is purely excitatory or inhibitory) and conclude with perturbation theory results that describe the limit of large directional bias, when all states are extended. Related problems arise in random ecological networks and in chains of artificial cells with randomly coupled gene expression patterns.

Random walks, and in particular, their first passage times, are ubiquitous in nature. Using direct enumeration of paths, we find the first-return-time distribution of a one-dimensional random walker, which is a heavy-tailed distribution with infinite mean. Using the same method, we find the last-return-time distribution, which follows the arcsine law. Both results have a broad range of applications in physics and other disciplines. The derivation presented here is readily accessible to physics undergraduates and provides an elementary introduction into random walks and their intriguing properties.