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Uri Alon        

Expert & TED Talker on Biological Systems & How Cells Work

First trained as a physicist, Uri Alon found a passion for biological systems. At the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, he and his lab investigate the protein circuits within a cell (they focus on E. coli), looking for basic interaction patterns that recur throughout biological networks. It's a field full of cross-disciplinary thinking habits and interesting problems. And in fact, Alon is the author of a classic paper on lab behavior called "How to Choose a Good Scientic Problem," which takes a step back from the rush to get grants and publish papers to ask: How can a good lab foster growth and self-motivated research?

In Alon's lab, students use tools from physics, neurobiology and computer science -- and concepts from improv theatre, to study basic principles of interactions. Using a theater practice called the "mirror game," they showed that two people can create complex novel motion together without a designated leader or follower. He also works on an addicting site called BioNumbers -- all the measurements you need to know about biology. The characteristic heart rate of a pond mussel? Why it's 4-6 beats per minute.

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