Smart, Living & Active Matter - Leiden

Leiden Institute of Physics

About us

The SLAM - Smart, Living, & Active Matter - initiative unites theory and experimental groups of the Leiden Institute of Physics. It currently gathers the groups of Luca Giomi, Louise Jawerth, Daniela Kraft, Martin van Hecke, Silke Henkes and Alexandre Morin.

Coming up next

2023-06-06 - 12:00 @ HUY 2.07

SLAM seminar: Liam Holt

Speaker: Liam Holt (Associate Professor, Institute for Systems Genetics New York University School of Medicine)

Title: Crowding, compression, and condensation. 

Abstract: Thousands of biochemical reactions occur simultaneously in the cell. Small molecules are
channeled through metabolic pathways at blistering speed. Giant complexes assemble to
orchestrate transcription and translation. ATP fuels the active transport of organelles along
microtubules, and actin networks drive membrane remodeling and agitate the cytoplasm. All of
this occurs within a crowded cell interior that approaches the physical limits where molecular
jamming and glassy transitions can occur. This extreme physical environment is both essential
for life, and a potential liability. If cells become too dilute, they senesce and die. On the other
hand, mechanical compression increases crowding and eventually stalls growth. Perturbations
to crowding change the balance of reaction rates in the cell. Crowding also drives biomolecular
condensation, which in turn is thought to regulate myriad processes. We propose that
perturbations to the physical properties of the cell interior through metabolic changes and
mechanical compression play an important role in both normal cell biology and disease.

Short Bio:
Liam Holt completed his Ph. D. at UCSF in 2009, was a Bowes Fellow at UC Berkeley, and is currently Associate Professor of Biochemistry at New York University. His lab studies how mechanical compression affects cells, and how the physical properties of the cell interior affect biochemistry in both normal biology and disease. He is passionate about outreach and community: he co-founded Science Sketches (, an online dictionary of science videos partnered with the Explorer’s Guide to Biology ( and MBoC Journal; and Inspire Science (, a symposium about maintaining happiness in a challenging career. 


One sentence:
``Liam Holt's lab studies tissue mechanics and the biophysical properties of cells.''