Savas Tay

  • Professor of Molecular Engineering
  • Research and Scholarly Interests: Single-Cell Analysis, Microfluidics, Systems Biology, Cellular Information Processing, Microengineering, Nanotechnology, Optics
  • Websites: Tay Lab
  • Contact: tays@uchicago.edu
  • Assistant: Alicia Bearden-Mannie
  • Office Location:
    Eckhardt Research Center
    Room 377
    5640 South Ellis Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60637

    Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery
    Room 10130
    900 East 57th Street
    Chicago, IL 60637

Savas Tay was born in the coastal town of Izmir, Turkey. He graduated from Marmara University in Istanbul, with a degree in physics and education. He received his PhD from the College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona in 2008. After his PhD, he took a postdoctoral position in Stephen Quake's group at Stanford University Bioengineering Department. In 2011, he was appointed as an assistant professor of bioengineering at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

Prof. Tay has received the highly prestigious European Research Commission ERC Starting Grant in 2013. Before joining University of Chicago, Tay has published 30 peer-reviewed and review papers, and gave more than 100 invited talks and conference presentations around the world. He serves at the editorial board of Nature Scientific Reports. He regularly reviews papers for Nature, Cell, Nature Communications, ACS Nano, Lab on Chip, Nature Light Science, Nano Today, Angewandte Chemie, Optics Express, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, among others. His work in engineering and biology was featured in many media outlets including BBC, Bloomberg News, CNN, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, National Public Radio, Daily Telegraph, Nikkei, MIT Technology Review, EMBO Seven Stones, and Faculty of 1000 Biology.

Tay is a systems biologist and bioengineer who works at the interface of biology, physics, and engineering. His overarching goal is to understand how biological systems work from an engineer’s perspective, and use this knowledge to manipulate cells and gene pathways to help cure diseases. On the technology front, his lab develops high-throughput and high-content single-cell analysis devices by integrating microfluidics and optics.

Tay joined the University of Chicago as an Associate Professor in the summer of 2016 from ETH Zurich in Switzerland. A main focus for Tay in Chicago will be to understand the role of molecular pathway dynamics in cellular information processing, pathogen sensing and recognition, and signaling. His Lab performs precision dynamic measurements on living cells and develops predictive models of complex biological systems like the immune system. Such models can serve as a rapid test-bed for drug studies and genome editing applications.

Microfluidic technologies developed by the Tay Lab create realistic environments that mimic living tissue, and measure dynamic processes in individual cells with extreme precision and throughput, adding majorly to the systems biology push at the Tay Lab. Tay is also interested in translating such technologies to real-life biomedical applications.

His work on NF-κB, a key transcription factor that regulates thousands of immune genes, was published in leading scientific journals such as Nature, Cell and PNAS. He discovered that cells activate NF-κB in an all-or-none fashion, similar to a digital switch. Recently, he discovered that molecular noise improves cellular signal transmission, and showed how oscillatory inputs control transcriptional dynamics by synergizing with molecular noise.

Before becoming interested in biological research, Tay was an optical physicist. His achievements in optics include the development of the first updateable holographic 3-D display, infrared-sensitive holographic materials for optical communications and bioimaging, tunable photonic crystal devices, and plasmonic thermal emitters for infrared imaging.

More on Tay’s research and publications can be found in his ETH website.

Selected research papers

Noise facilitates transcriptional control under dynamic inputs. Kellogg & Tay. Cell 160, 381 (2015)

Digital signaling decouples activation probability and population heterogeneity. Kellogg, Tian, Lipniacki, Quake, Tay. eLife 4:e08931 (2015)

High-throughput microfluidic single-cell analysis pipeline for studies of signaling dynamics. Kellogg, Gómez-Sjöberg, Leyrat, Tay. Nature Protocols 9, 1713 (2014)

Automated co-culture system for spatiotemporal analysis of cell-to-cell communication. Frank & Tay. Lab on a Chip 15, 2192 (2015)

Migration of cells in a social context. Vedel, et al. PNAS 110, 129 (2013)

Single-cell NF-kB dynamics reveal digital activation and analogue information processing. Tay, et al. Nature 466, 267 (2010)

An updateable holographic three-dimensional display. Tay, et al. Nature 451, 694 (2008)