The Faculty


Connect biochemical measurements, the development of novel biophysical assays, and mathematical modeling to build a comprehensive understanding of the function of bimolecular circuits


Ph.D., Harvard University, 2006.
Dept. of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, Dept. of Physics, Inst. for Genomics and Systems Biology, and the College.


Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Fellow, 2008
Burroughs-Wellcome Career Award, 2009

Research Interests

Living cells are capable of remarkably sophisticated behavior, combining information from the external environment with an internally stored model of past events to make decisions about how to respond to challenges. These decisions can be thought of as information processing tasks that must occur robustly in the face of various potentially disruptive fluctuations in the conditions inside the cell. Fundamentally, these computations are carried about by networks of proteins and nucleic acids, specialized macromolecular machines sculpted by evolution to channel specific chemical reactions.

We are interested in uncovering the design principles of these networks that allow them to function reliably. We are currently interested in the circadian rhythm, a nonlinear oscillator in living cells that is normally phase locked to the daily rhythms in the external environment and that coordinates cyclic behavior and metabolism in living organisms. We are exploiting a particularly powerful model system from cyanobacteria, where the core oscillator can be studed in a test tube using a mixture of three purified proteins (KaiA, KaiB, and KaiC). Our approach combines methodology from various disciplines including dynamical systems theory, engineering, biochemistry, and quantitative microscopy.

Selected Publications

K. Husain, W. Pittayakanchit, G. Pattanayak, M. J. Rust, A. Murugan, "Kalman-like Self-tuned Sensitivity in Biophysical Sensing", Cell Systems, 9:459-465 (2019)

S. N. Ricketts, M. L. Francis, L. Farhadi, M. J. Rust, M. Das, J. L. Ross, R. M. Robertson-Anderson, "Varying Crosslinking Motifs Drive the Mesoscale Mechanics of Actin-Microtubule Composites", Scientific Reports, 9:1-12 (2019)

B. Gurmessa, M. Francis, M. J. Rust, M. Das, J. L. Ross, R. M. Robertson-Anderson, "Counterion Crossbridges Enable Robust Multiscale Elasticity in Actin Networks", Phys. Rev. Res., 1:13-16 (2019)

L. Hong, B. P. Vani, E. H. Thiede, M. J. Rust, A. Dinner, "Molecular Dynamics Simulations of Nucleotide Release from the Circadian Clock Protein KaiC Reveal Atomic-Resolution Functional Insights", Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 115:E11475-E11484 (2018)

Y. Liao and M. J. Rust, "The Min Oscillator Defines Sites of Asymmetric Cell Division in Cyanobacteria during Stress Recovery", Cell Systems, 7:471-481 (2018)

E. Leypunskiy, E. Kıcıman, M. Shah, O. J. Walch, A. Rzhetsky, A. Dinner, M. J. Rust, "Geographically Resolved Rhythms in Twitter Use Reveal Social Pressures on Daily Activity Patterns", Curr. Biol. 28:3763-3775 (2018)

W. Pittayakanchit, Z. Lu, J. Chew, M. J. Rust, A. Murugan, "Biophysical Clocks Face a Trade-off between Internal and External Noise Resistance", eLife, 2018;7:e37624 (2018) pdf

J. Chew, E. Leypunskiy, J. Lin, A. Murugan, M. J. Rust, "High Protein Copy Number Is Required to Suppress Stochasticity in the Cyanobacterial Circadian Clock", Nature Communications 9:3004 (2018) link

E. Leypunskiy, J. Lin, H. Yoo, U. Lee, A. R. Dinner, M. J. Rust, "The Cyanobacterial Circadian Clock Follows Midday In Vivo and In Vitro" eLife, 2017;6:e23539 (2017) pdf

S. Jun and M. J. Rust, "A Fundamental Unit of Cell Size in Bacteria" Trends in Genetics, 33:7:433-435 (2017) (commentary on Zheng and O'Shea)

G. Lambert, J. Chew, M. J. Rust, "Costs of Clock-Environment Misalignment in Individual Cyanobacterial Cells" Biophysical Journal, 111:883-891 (2016)

M. S. Brown, J. Grubb, A. Zhang, M. J. Rust, D. K. Bishop, "Small Rad51 and Dmc1 Complexes Often Co-occupy Both Ends of a Meiotic DNA Double Strand Break", PLoS Genetics, 11(12):e1005653 (2015) pdf

G. K. Pattanayak, G. Lambert, K. Bernat, M. J. Rust, "Controlling the Cyanobacterial Clock by Synthetically Rewiring Metabolism", Cell Reports (2015) pdf

M. J. Rust, "Computational Recipes in Enzymology", Cell Systems 1:178-179 (2015) pdf (commentary on Savir et al.)

Y.-G. Chang, S. E. Cohen, C. Phong, W. K. Meyers, Y.-I. Kim, R. Tseng, J. Lin, L. Zhang, J. Boyd, Y. Lee, S. Kang, D. Lee, S. Li, R. D. Britt, M. J. Rust, S. S. Golden, A. LiWang, "A Protein Fold Switch Joins the Circadian Oscillator to Clock Output in Cyanobacteria", Science 10.1126/science.1260031 (2015) pdf

J. Lin, J. Chew, U. Chockanathan, M. J. Rust, "Mixtures of Opposing Phosphorylations within Hexamers Precisely Time Feedback in the Cyanobacterial Circadian Clock", Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 111:E3937-E3945 (2014) pdf

G. K. Pattanayak, C. Phong, M. J. Rust, "Rhythms in Energy Storage Control the Ability of the Cyanobacterial Circadian Clock to Reset", Curr. Biol. (2014 pdf)

G. K. Pattanayak, M. J. Rust, "The Cyanobacterial Clock and Metabolism", Curr. Opin. Microbiol. 18:1-6 (2014) pdf