Dr. Philip Bittihn

I am a physicist who is fascinated by the extraordinary degree of complexity and emergent dynamics in biological systems. These properties pose a major challenge for explaining observed behavior from first principles, requiring innovative methods to decipher the involved mechanisms and to enable control of dynamic behavior. Coming from a nonlinear dynamics background, I started venturing into biology by investigating experimentally and in reaction-diffusion models how pattern formation processes in the cardiac muscle lead to heart rhythm disorders and identified novel strategies to terminate life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias, based on properties of the underlying heterogeneous medium and the characteristic dynamics of topological defects and activation patterns. Subsequently, together with synthetic and systems biologists, I widened my focus to include stochastic evolutionary, gene regulatory and population dynamics. I am particularly interested multicellular systems, where patterns and coordinated population-level behavior emerge from the coupling of individual constituents through physical, chemical end environmental interactions.

The current focus of my research is on the effects of growth as the non-equilibrium activity that drives complex behavior in cellular active matter. This includes both mechanical interactions, expansion flows, orientational order and shape development, as well as coupling to other processes such as gene regulation and metabolism. This research is driven by the vision that an understanding of how biological dynamics emerge can uncover fundamental design principles and at the same time provide the basis for developing methods for biotechnology and medicine that control these dynamics. For current projects, see the group page (on the right).

Self-organized growth patterns.

A colony of genetically modified E. coli inside a quasi-2D microfluidic chamber, undergoing oscillations in growth and gene expression due to coupling of intracellar dynamics and environmental nutrient diffusion [Nature Microbiology 2020, see pub. list].


 Selected publications until 2020 (more on group page, complete list on Google Scholar):

P. Bittihn, A. Didovyk, L. S. Tsimring, J. Hasty
Genetically engineered control of phenotypic structure in microbial colonies
Nature Microbiology 5, 697 (2020)
J. Christoph, M. Chebbok, C. Richter, J. Schröder-Schetelig, P. Bittihn, S. Stein, I. Uzelac, F.H. Fenton, G. Hasenfuß, R.F. Gilmour Jr., S. Luther
Electromechanical Vortex Filaments During Cardiac Fibrillation
Nature 555, 667 (2018)
P. Bittihn, L. S. Tsimring
Gene Conversion Facilitates Adaptive Evolution On Rugged Fitness Landscapes
Genetics 207, 1577 (2017)
Y. Li, M. Jin, R. O'Laughlin, P. Bittihn, L. S. Tsimring, L. Pillus, J. Hasty, N. Hao
Multi-generational silencing dynamics control cell aging
PNAS 114, 11253 (2017)
S. R. Scott, M. O. Din, P. Bittihn, L. Xiong, L. S. Tsimring, J. Hasty
A stabilized microbial ecosystem of self-limiting bacteria using synthetic quorum-regulated lysis
Nature Microbiology 2, 17083 (2017)
P. Bittihn, J. Hasty, L. S. Tsimring
Suppression of Beneficial Mutations in Dynamic Microbial Populations
Physical Review Letters 118, 028102 (2017)
T. K. Shajahan, S. Berg, S. Luther, V. Krinski and P. Bittihn
Scanning and resetting the phase of a pinned spiral wave using periodic far field pulses
New Journal of Physics 18, 043012 (2016)
P. Bittihn, M. Hörning, S. Luther
Negative curvature boundaries as wave emitting sites for the control of biological excitable media
Physical Review Letters 109, 118106 (2012)
S. Luther*, F.H. Fenton*, B.G. Kornreich, A. Squires, P. Bittihn, D. Hornung, M. Zabel, J. Flanders, A. Gladuli, L. Campoy, E.M. Cherry, G. Luther, G. Hasenfuss, V.I. Krinsky, A. Pumir, R.F. Gilmour Jr., E. Bodenschatz
Low-energy control of electrical turbulence in the heart
Nature 475, 235-239 (2011)
P. Bittihn, A. Squires, G. Luther, E. Bodenschatz, V. Krinsky, U. Parlitz, and S. Luther
Phase-resolved analysis of the susceptibility of pinned spiral waves to far-field pacing in a two-dimensional model of excitable media
Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 368, 2221-2236 (2010)
P. Bittihn, A. Squires, G. Luther, E. Bodenschatz, V. Krinsky, U. Parlitz, and S. Luther
Far field pacing supersedes anti-tachycardia pacing in a generic model of excitable media
New Journal of Physics 10, 103012 (2008)
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