Academic Biography

Gürol Süel received his PhD in Molecular Biophysics in 2003, in the laboratory of Dr. Rama Ranganathan at UT Southwestern Medical Center. He was part of a team that challenged the traditional view of protein function. Specifically, he identified unknown allosteric regulation in protein families by applying a statistical thermodynamics approach. He also performed whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology experiments on intact fly photoreceptor cells to study the dynamics of the light receptor rhodopsin. He then went on to do his postdoc with Dr. Michael Elowitz at Caltech, where he transitioned from studying networks of amino acids that make up proteins, to networks of genes and proteins that control cellular physiology. With his overarching interest in network dynamics, he studied how gene regulatory networks enable bacteria to make decisions. During this work, he generated the first direct experimental evidence that biochemical stochasticity (noise) can determine cell fate outcomes.

After starting his independent laboratory in 2007 at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dr. Süel investigated the functional role of biochemical noise by integrating single cell measurements, synthetic biology and mathematical modeling. His laboratory then moved to UC San Diego in 2012 and began to venture from single cells to bacterial biofilm communities. Among others, his group uncovered a cell death pattern that emerges during biofilm development and determines colony morphology by channeling mechanical forces. His group used this insight to engineer the 3D organization of a living population of bacterial cells. Dr. Süel’s group recently also developed a microfluidics method to study biofilm growth and uncovered growth oscillations driven by spatio-temporal coordination of metabolic states among distant cells. These collective oscillations were shown to increase the resilience of biofilms against antibiotic attack by resolving the social conflict between cooperation and competition among bacteria. Most recently, Dr. Süel’s laboratory discovered a new form of bacterial communication that arises in biofilms: Ion channel mediated electrical cell-to-cell signaling. This finding revealed an unexpected connection between micro and neurobiology with many fundamental implications. His lab is currently focused on investigating the relationship between emergent population-level dynamics and the functional roles of bacterial electrophysiology.

Dr. Süel is a Professor of Molecular Biology and the Associate Director of the San Diego Center for Systems Biology (an NIH Center for Excellence). He is also the recipient of investigator awards from the Welch Foundation, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the Hartwell Foundation, Moore Foundation (Scialog Fellow) and an HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar.