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Zemer Gitai: Modeling life's architecture

Credit: Dustin Fenstermacher / Wonderful Machine" /> Credit: Dustin Fenstermacher / Wonderful Machine Zemer Gitai likes to say of his thus far short, but fruitful, science career that he is devolving. Since he studied cancer in mice as an undergraduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he has been transitioning his work to increasingly simpler biologic systems. For now, he has settled on bacteria. As a PhD student at the University of California, San Fra

Andrea Gawrylewski
<figcaption> Credit: Dustin Fenstermacher / Wonderful Machine</figcaption>
Credit: Dustin Fenstermacher / Wonderful Machine

Zemer Gitai likes to say of his thus far short, but fruitful, science career that he is devolving. Since he studied cancer in mice as an undergraduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he has been transitioning his work to increasingly simpler biologic systems. For now, he has settled on bacteria.

As a PhD student at the University of California, San Francisco, under the tutelage of Cori Bargmann, Gitai worked on axon guidance in Caenorhabditis elegans. In particular, he was interested in the parts of the worm's neurons that "know" when or where to grow, or fire, presumably working through a mechanism controlled by axon guidance and the eukaryotic actin cytoskeleton. But this work became frustrating, Gitai says, as he realized that in such a complex system with so many proteins, finding what controlled spatial cues would be daunting.

Gitai decided that a...

Title: Associate Professor, Department Molecular Biology, Princeton University Age: 31
Representative publications:
1. Z. Gitai, "An actin-like gene can determine cell polarity in bacteria," Proc Nat Acad Sci, 101:8643–8, 2004. (Cited in 86 papers) 2. Z. Gitai, "The new bacterial cell biology: moving parts and subcellular architecture," Cell, 120:577–86, 2005. (Cited in 41 papers) 3. N.A. Dye et al., "Two independent spiral structures control cell shape in Caulobacter," Proc Nat Acad Sci, 102:18608–13, 2005. (Cited in 32 papers)

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