The Dawson lab uses quantitative microscopy techniques, including particle-tracking microrheology, time-lapsed cell tracking, and traction force microscopy, to probe cell behavior under different physiological conditions. Environmental factors, like growth factor concentration and matrix mechanics, are manipulated to determine their effects on cytoskeletal organization and mechanics. Genomic analysis and small-molecule screening are then used to elucidate the molecular pathways controlling cell function.

Information gained through these fundamental studies can be used to: (i) improve the homing of stem cells to tissues, (ii) classify cells based on their mechanical properties, (iii) increase our understanding of force-dependent cancer progression, and (iv) optimize the physical properties of engineered tissues.

Highlights from previous work: