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