Mara Prentiss is Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics at Harvard University. The Prentiss group focuses on using physics tools to elucidate important problems in biology. The basic principles governing self-assembly have been a focus of recent work. It has long been known that any complex self-assembling system faces a tradeoff between the speed at which the system explores different configurations and the stability of the final product. The Prentiss group has shown that this paradox can be overcome in various systems, but their research has focused on two systems that play important roles in the interactions between chromosomes in vivo.