Symmetry & order in living matter
Living matter at all scales has a remarkable capacity to grow, organize, heal and move. This capacity stems from its ability to convert energy at the molecular scale to generate macroscopic organized motion and emergent structures. The lab's overarching vision is to understand how nonequilibrium forces lead to spatiotemporal organization in living matter, and in turn, how biological regulation harness this self-organizing capacity to make functional forms.
Syncrhonized cytoskeletal wave dynamics govern oocyte meiotic functions.
Pancreas organoids rotate as active solid & spontaneously break chiral symmetry.
Sea star embryos self-assemble into living chiral crystals with odd elastic dynamics.
Our lab is curiosity-driven, and we are interested in deciphering how order, symmetries and dynamics emerge in living matter. To do so, we draw inspiration from physics ideas in active matter, nonlinear dynamics and out-of-equilibrium statistical mechanics. By using a variety of model systems (including marine invertebrate embryos and mammalian organoids), the lab combines quantitative imaging, creative data analysis and collaboration with theorists to study the physical basis of biological organization.
The lab currently focuses on two aspects of living matter, namely chirality and topology. Chirality arises when mirror symmetry of a system is broken. We are interested in asking how chiral symmetry is broken in living matter such as multicellular tissues and ciliary carpets on embryos. Furthermore, we are excited to explore how these chiral interactions lead to higher-order, emergent properties such as odd dynamics in living chiral crystal.
Concurrently, we are curious about how topological aspects of biological systems are directly related their function. In this respect, we study how interplay between biochemical patterning and mechanics drive tissue topological transitions (e.g. lumen formation, tubulogenesis) and interrogate how topological defects play a role in this process. More speculatively, we are intrigued by the possibility that topologically protected states can be realized in living matter.
Ultimately, we seek to combine physics insights with quantitative experiments to uncover the generic principles that underlie complexity in living systems.