Welcome to the Hernday Lab

Research in the Hernday lab seeks to understand the systems control principles and molecular mechanisms that underlie cellular decision making, with a focus on the complex transcriptional circuits that govern phenotypic switching in unicellular microbes. These switches give rise to distinct phenotypic states that, once established, can be maintained for many generations through epigenetic mechanisms. Phenotypic switching is often a key virulence attribute that enables microbial pathogens to display complex behaviors such as immune system evasion and rapid adaptation to unique niches. We aim to develop quantitative, predictive, and testable models of the underlying logic of microbial gene expression circuits, and to identify key components of this circuitry that are required for pathogenesis. This work impacts our understanding of how microbes colonize different environments and develop complex microbial communities. Beyond microbial pathogens, this work is directly applicable to understanding the systems level principles of cellular differentiation and heritability in more “complex” organisms, such as humans, where similar regulatory systems govern many important biological processes, including the differentiation of stem cells into adult tissues, the response of cells to environmental perturbations, and the ability of cells to “remember” their phenotypic identity through repeated cell divisions. We also work on developing new tools, including precision genome editing systems, high throughput phenotyping assays, and novel approaches to characterizing transcriptional regulatory complexes.