Career: Massively-Parallel Single-Cell Genomics and Transcriptomics with Droplet Microfluidics

Investigator: Adam Abate, PhD
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Location(s): United States


Research to develop a new technology for analyzing single cells. Biological systems are often heterogeneous, consisting of large numbers of cells with distinct genetic and phenotypic properties. However, existing technologies for sequencing populations of cells tend to treat them as though they were homogenous, discarding individual cell information that is critical to understanding the system's global properties. The objective of this project is to develop a microfluidic technology that will allow heterogeneous populations of cells to be sequenced with single cell resolution. In contrast to other single cell sequencing technologies, this technology, based in microfluidics, will be ultrahigh-throughput, allowing millions of cells to be sequenced in one run of the system. The ability to acquire detailed, single cell information from heterogeneous populations will be useful for a broad range of basic science and translational applications, including in microbiology, immunology, and synthetic biology.

This work will have educational impacts by involving UCSF graduate students, students from the City College of San Francisco's Bridge to Biosciences program, and students from local high schools. These students will be involved in the acquisition of samples, the development of opensource software for data processing, and the dissemination of the data via an online database. For scientific outreach, UCSF graduate students will lead expeditions of local community college and high school students to ecologies in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they will collect microbial samples for analysis. The expeditions will provide the graduate students with opportunities to hone their skills discussing science with the public, while the community college and high school students will learn about the scientific process and the importance of microbes in the environment.