Dr. Backues general area of interest is membrane trafficking, and how proteins control the shape and dynamics of cellular membranes. He is currently studying the membrane trafficking involved in the process of autophagy in yeast. Autophagy ("self-eating") is a both a means of surviving starvation and a method of disposing of damaged or unwanted cytoplasmic constituents by wrapping them up in a double-membraned autophagosome and sending them to the vacuole to be degraded. It is conserved through eukaryotes, and in humans helps to protect against neurodegeneration and other diseases of aging. Dr. Backues is using yeast genetics and in vitro binding studies to examine the molecular details of how the autophagosome is formed.