Dr.ir. L. Laan

Research Theme(s): Cell Biology and Synthetic systems

Research Interests: Cell Polarity and Pattern Formation, Evolutionary Cell Biophysics, Predicting and Controlling Evolution


Laan (1980) studied Applied Physics (cum laude) at Twente University. She performed her master and PhD research (cum laude) in the Biophysics group of Marileen Dogterom at AMOLF (at that time), investigating how the microtubule cytoskeleton organizes the cellular interior, using (synthetic) experimental- and theoretical approaches. She spent part of her PhD at the EMBL in Heidelberg and at the MPI for Complex Systems in Dresden. For her PhD work she received an honorary mention for the Christiaan Huygens Prize in Physics. As a post-doc she went, with a Rubicon and a HFSP cross disciplinary fellowship to the lab of Andrew Murray at Harvard University to study evolutionary dynamics in the yeast polarity network.

Since 2014 she leads an independent research group (laanlab.tudelft.nl) which pioneers the emerging field of evolutionary cell biophysics, focusing on the functional network for polarity establishment in budding yeast. She received an ERC Starting Grant, a VIDI personal grant and an Aspasia grant from NWO and is a Delft Technology Fellow. Laan is a dedicated teacher, who taught several courses in the Nanobiology program, i.e. Physics 1b, and Physical Biology of the Cell, and was a member of the Board of Examiners (2016-2020). She has co-organized the following international meetings: Dutch Biophysics meeting (2016/2017), a Lorentz meeting on “Evolution of Biomolecular Networks” (2018), a Lorentz meeting on “Synthetic Cells” (2020), an Origins2021 meeting (2021), and has been invited to  >40 international meetings. She is a board member of the Netherlands Society for Evolutionary Biology, member of the Origins Center Steering group and a member of the Dutch Physics Council (Raad voor Natuurkunde). She has participated in several grant selection panels. Last but not least, she is an enthusiastic ambassador for Women in Science and for cross-fertilization between Art and Science.

For further information regarding current research and available projects, visit Laan Lab


Current Projects

  • Multivalent interactions in a DNA-colloidal system.
  • Construction of multivalent proteins via DNA nanostars.
  • Reconstituting Cdc42 pattern formation in vitro.
  • Why isn’t there a model for Cdc42 polarization during cytokinesis?
  • Investigating Nrp1 in the polarity network of budding yeast: a molecular study
  • Elucidating how essential genes change across genetic backgrounds in S. cerevisae.

Highlight Publications

1. Patterns of Conservation and Diversification in the Fungal Polarization Network

Diepeveen, E. T., et al

Genome Biology and Evolution, evy121


2. Physical and Mathematical Modelling in Experimental Papers

Moebius, W. and Laan, L.

Cell, 163-7, 1577-1583


3. Evolution Recovery After Crippling Cell Polarisation Reveals Reproducible Trajectories

Laan,L. , Koschwanez, J.H. and Murray, A.W.,

Elife, 10.7554/elife.09638


4. 'Cortical' Dynein Controls Microtubule Dynamics and Length, Generating Pulling Forces that Position Microtubules Asters

Laan, L. et al,

Cell 148, 502-514


Assistant Professor

Liedewij Laan