Cells are the smallest complete units of self-replication, and all life is made up of them. It is becoming clear that cells are best studied as informational and computational units, not just physical machines. Many of the questions of interest to cell biologists fall into the general category of “how is this or that aspect of a cell encoded in its genome?” But the connection between molecules and phenotype is complex: cells are irreducible, and must be understood as a whole. I will discuss questions that arise in the study of membrane traffic: the logistics system that moves cargo between different parts of a cell. Surprisingly, many important issues can be phrased as well-posed abstract problems, whose analysis leads to experimentally testable predictions. I will close with our recent experimental work on the evolution of Saccharomyces carlsbergensis, the yeast that makes lager beer.
See more on this video at www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/video/possible-impossible-cells/