Lab News

Farewell to our graduating seniors!

July 10, 2020

A very bittersweet farewell to our two departing undergrads, Giselle Uribe ‘20 and Haeun Jung ‘20! These two superstars have been a part of our lab family for almost their entire undergrad careers, and although we’re sad to see them go, we’re so proud of all their accomplishments.

Both Giselle and Haeun were mentored by Elliot Dine, who had this to say about their time in the lab:

It was a pleasure to work with both Giselle and Haeun. They showed both a love of life and of science throughout their time in ToettchLab. Their love of science led them to work hard and ask really interesting questions about the functions of protein phase separation that resulted in beautiful theses. Their love of life in general made them pleasures to work with and they brightened the entire Toettchlab with their presence. It definitely won’t be the same without seeing Giselle and her large cup of Starbucks Coffee or hearing Haeun’s beautiful violin playing. So, thanks Giselle and Haeun for putting up with me for these years and making me a much better scientist - and western blotter ;) – because of it.

Here’s a little more about each of them:

Giselle Uribe


Concentration: Molecular Biology concentration and a certificate in Engineering Biology.
Senior thesis: Development of optogenetic tools to investigate the mechanism of cytoplasmic.
Plans after Princeton: My plans after Princeton include starting my manuscript and working as a lab tech. After, I hope to be in an MD/PhD program.
Memories from lab: Things that I will miss from lab include running into my labmates everyday (at literally any hour of the day) and just the general Toettcher Lab vibes.

Haeun Jung


Concentration: Molecular Biology, with a certificate in Violin Performance
Senior thesis: Enhancing Signaling Flux via Light-Induced Assembly of the Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK) Pathway
Plans after Princeton: Going to Shepherd School of Music at Rice University to get my Master’s of Music in Violin Performance.
Memories from lab: I’ll miss the random conversations with people and the quirky environment that let me learn so much about myself.

Bye, ladies! It’s such a shame we can’t celebrate your graduation and research successes in person. We wish you all the best with your next adventures and can’t wait to see what you do next!

Welcome to our three new grad students!

May 1, 2020

Welcome to our newest grad students, Liyuan Zhu, Evan Underhill and Richard Thornton, as they kick off their PhD adventures with us!

Liyuan comes to us from the Chemistry department and will be working on developing the next generation of photoswitchable protein binders.

Evan joins us from the department of Chemical and Biology Engineering. He will be diving into the great, wide world of gastruloids.

Richard, joining from Molecular Biology, will be pursuing questions related to mammalian cell signaling dynamics.

We’re very happy to have you all in the lab!

"Before PhD" pictures of Liyuan, Evan, and Richard.

Congratulations to Sarah for her Presentation at TAGC!

April 26, 2020

On April 25th, Sarah McFann gave an oral presentation titled “Optogenetic dissection of signaling crosstalk in the early embryo” at The Allied Genetics Conference (ATGC)! Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference proceeded as scheduled (albeit virtually), which allowed Sarah to share her recent work about intracellular Erk dynamics and crosstalk in drosophila embryos.

Says Sarah, "I'm so thankful to the organizers who made the Allied Genetics Conference happen. It was great getting to share my work on signaling crosstalk and dynamics in the fruit fly embryo and being able to hear about research conducted in all sorts of other model organisms--from yeast to mice to wheat."

Sarah_fly embryo
A fly embryo who recently became famous by appearing in Sarah's presentation. 

Alex’s Paper is published in Cell Systems!

March 25, 2020

Congratulations to Alex Goglia on his latest paper titled “A Live-Cell Screen for Altered Erk Dynamics Reveals Principles of Proliferative Control” published in Cell Systems!

The study screens a library of over 400 kinase inhibitors for their effect on Erk signaling activity in primary mouse skin cells. Using a live-cell biosensor of Erk activity, the screen explores how different drug treatments can alter unique features of Erk dynamics over time, placing cells into one of three different dynamic regimes, and further uses optogenetic tools to demonstrate that these different regimes affect the conditions under which cells proliferate. As the first live-cell screen of its kind, this work provides a platform for future large-scale screens examining how drugs or other perturbations alter signaling dynamics, which may hold profound consequences for our understanding of inter-pathway signaling crosstalk, cell fate decision making, and disease treatment.

The entire data set from this study can be accessed here.

Goglia et al

Goglia AG, et al. (2020) Cell Systems

Welcome to the world, baby Gil!

March 12, 2020

The Toettchlab warmly welcomes our newest (and cutest) nanobody, Harrison! Although the world is going through a lot of craziness right now, we’re glad that Harry and mom, Agi, are doing well. Harry, we’re excited to meet you in person, and we can’t wait to see if you transform into an awesome scientist like your mama someday!

Agi and Harry
We couldn't convince her to name him Megatron. 

Elliot Presents at Q-Bio Conference in Hawaii!

February 24, 2020


Congratulations to Elliot Dine, who has just returned from presenting his research at the Winter Q-Bio conference, held this year in Waikoloa Hawaii!

Elliot gave an oral presentation and a poster titled: A phase separation based positive feedback loop between a substrate and its kinase allows for effective T Cell Receptor signaling.

Says Elliot, "I enjoyed having my mind blown by science during the week and by the ocean over the weekend."

Pictured: Elliot looking for whales and living his best life.

Sidu Presents at Keystone Conference in Colorado!

January 31, 2020


Congratulations to Sidu Jena, who recently presented his research at the joint Keystone Conference in Keystone, CO, on Jan 26-30th! The conference brought together two of Sidu's greatest loves: Gene Regulation and Chromatin Epigenetics. 

Sidu's poster was titled: Dynamic signaling and stochastic transcription intersect to modulate heterogeneity.

Says Sidu, "I spent the week learning about super-cool research in gene regulation and chromatin biology, and got the chance to meet and discuss interesting questions and approaches with leaders in the field."

Pictured: Sidu outside.

Welcome to our newest post-doc, Ellen!

January 24, 2020
EllenKicking off 2020, we welcome our newest postdoc, Ellen Reed! Ellen joins us from the University of Pennsylvania, where she completed her thesis work in the lab of Dan Hammer. Her research focused on engineering phase separating intrinsically disordered proteins to respond to external stimuli such as light. Here at Princeton, Ellen will be working as a joint post-doc between the Toettcher lab and the Aoki lab at the National Institute of Natural Sciences in Japan. We’re very excited to have you in lab, Ellen!

Pav Presents Research at University of Pennsylvania!

October 30, 2019

On October 28th, our former-undergrad-turned-technician-extraordinaire, Pavithran Ravindran, was invited to give a talk as part of the Trainee Seminar Series at the University of Pennsylvania! Pav was hosted by Dr. Arjun Raj from the departments of Bioengineering and Genetics. His talk was titled “Engineering novel combinatorial and dynamic decoders using synthetic immediate-early genes.” After his talk, he got to spend the day with Arjun and members of the Raj lab.

Says Pav, "Getting the opportunity to prepare a presentation about the work that I have done over the years and visit/present at another university was an incredible experience. I really want to thank both members of the Raj lab/Arjun Raj for hosting me and telling me about the amazing science they are doing as well as everyone in the Toettcher lab for helping me prepare for the talk."

Congrats, Pav!

Pav Penn

Sarah Returns from Summer Internship at the Gates Foundation!

September 13, 2019

This summer, Sarah McFann spent 12 weeks interning with the quantitative team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the creative team at Gates Ventures.

During her internship, Sarah evaluated different mathematical models for how malnutrition leads to developmental stunting. Her goal was to ultimately identify which models could best guide malnutrition interventions. Among the models evaluated were genome-scale metabolic (GEM) models, microbe community GEM models, and ordinary differential equation models, which Sarah explains, “try to capture the complicated relationships between microbial population dynamics in the gut, gut health, and the human immune response.”

In addition to her mathematical work, Sarah says she got to write and learn a lot about the roles that epidemiology, digital health, and renewable energy play in global development.

In describing her experience, Sarah says:

“Working in Seattle was like having a bird’s eye view of the world. I got to see, in real time, how philanthropy can be used to shift markets and how social factors impact epidemics—things you don’t necessarily get to see firsthand in the lab. While it was sobering to realize the bigness of some of the challenges that people around the world are facing right now, it was encouraging to see how many brilliant, empathetic people there are working towards solutions. My summer also got me thinking about ways I can apply the skills I’ve picked up during my PhD to global development problems in health and energy once I graduate.”

We’re very happy to have Sarah back in lab and to have her regale us with tales of her experience and research!

Sarah Gates Foundation

... Read more about Sarah Returns from Summer Internship at the Gates Foundation!