Britton Chance Distinguished Lecture in Engineering and Medicine

2022 Lecture

Clifford P. Brangwynne
June K. Wu ’92 Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Princeton University

“A Fluid Paradigm for Biological Organization”

Wednesday, October 26, 2022, 3:30 PM, Wu and Chen Auditorium, Levine Hall


Living cells are often mistakenly viewed as functioning through a clockwork-like set of interactions among their biomolecular building blocks, like machines on a factory floor. But the processes taking place within cells are vastly more wet and dynamic than many textbooks would have us believe. Over the last decade, research combining insights from materials physics and cell biology has ushered in new paradigm for understanding how this chaotic intracellular environment is brought to order, through the collective condensation of disordered of biomolecules into droplets of living information. Intracellular condensates represent viscoelastic states of biomolecular matter, which facilitate dozens of different intracellular processes, and appear to underlie various cancers and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS. In this talk, I will discuss some of our early and more recent adventures in this new field, and highlight the challenges and opportunities for the next decade.

Speaker Biography:
Cliff Brangwynne is the June K. Wu ’92 Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and Director of the Princeton Bioengineering  Initiative. He obtained a B.S. in Materials Science from Carnegie Mellon University in 2001, and PhD in Applied Physics in 2007 from Harvard University. He was a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden, and was a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden. Since 2011 he has been a faculty member in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University. His primary research interests are in biological self-assembly, particularly in the role of intracellular liquid-liquid phase separation. Dr. Brangwynne is the recipient of numerous awards including a Searle Scholar Award, a Macarthur Fellowship, Wiley Prize, HFSP Nakasone Award, and most recently a Breakthrough Prize.

Previous Britton Chance Distinguished Lecturers

1995: Lewis S. Edelheit, General Electric Company

1996: Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1998: George Georgiou, University of Texas at Austin

1999: Jeffrey A. Hubbell, University of Zürich

2000: W. Mark Saltzman, Cornell University

2001: Chaitan S. Khosla, Stanford University

2002: Sangtae Kim, Lilly Research Laboratories

2003: Larry V. McIntire, Rice University

2004: Deborah E. Leckband, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

2004: Stephen R. Quake, Stanford University

2005: Frances H. Arnold, California Institute of Technology

2006: Adam P. Arkin, University of California at Berkeley

2007: Kristi S. Anseth, University of Colorado at Boulder

2008: Jay D. Keasling, University of California at Berkeley

2009: Mark E. Davis, California Institute of Technology

2010: David A. Tirrell, California Institute of Technology

2011: Frank S. Bates, University of Minnesota

2012: Arup K. Chakraborty, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2013: Melody A. Swartz, Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne

2014: James C. Liao, University of California, Los Angeles

2015: Samir Mitragotri, University of California, Santa Barbara

2016: David Mooney, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science

2017: Lynda G. Griffith, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2018: David Schaffer, University of California at Berkeley

2020: Jennifer Elisseeff, Johns Hopkins University

This distinguished lecture honors Britton Chance

Britton ChanceBritton Chance (1913-2010) was a world leader in transforming theoretical science into useful biomedical and clinical applications. Among his pioneering contributions to fundamental biomedical science were his discovery of numerous enzyme-substrate compounds, World War II development of computers for Radar, the elucidation of the fundamental principles of control of bioenergetics and metabolism, the first human subject study using 31P NMR (phosphorous nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy and more recently optical spectroscopy and imaging of human brain and breast. Through decades of scholarly mentorship of colleagues in disciplines ranging from mathematics to clinical medicine, he brought additional distinction to this University and multiplied its contributions to improving the human condition.

Professor Chance was Eldridge Reeves Johnson University Professor of Biophysics, Physical Chemistry and Radiologic Physics at Penn. He received his undergraduate degree from Penn’s Towne Scientific School in 1935 and doctoral degrees from both Penn and the University of Cambridge. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the Institute of Medicine and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London. Among very many other recognitions, he received the National Medal of Science, the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the American Philosophical Society, the Biological Physics Prize from the American Physical Society, and honorary degrees from the Karolinska Institut, the Medical College of Ohio at Toledo, Semmelweis University, Hahnemann Medical College and the Universities of Pennsylvania, Helsinki, Dusseldorf and Buenos Aires. In his honor, Huazhong University of Science and Technology named a major laboratory as the Britton Chance Center for Biomedical Photonics.