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Science and Mathematics

Physics Colloquium: Emily Gehrels, “How to create form and function in biological and synthetic systems”

January 19, 2023 at 3:30pm5:00pm EST

Physics Building, 202

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The Department of Physics is pleased to welcome Dr. Emily Gehrels for an in-person colloquium. Gehrels is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Marseille Developmental Biology Institute. She received a B.S. in Physics in 2012 from Carnegie Mellon University. This presentation is part of the faculty search for an Assistant Professor of Soft Matter and/or Biological Physics.

Abstract: Biological organisms are able to develop from simple eggs to adults with complex forms and functions through the process of morphogenesis, or structure formation. What can we learn about the rules and possibilities of self-organization by studying their development? I will present one such study where we uncover how Drosophila embryos use symmetric forces to create a polarized flow of cells needed to achieve their final form.

Cell flows in the early Drosophila embryo are driven by an interplay between biological signaling and tissue mechanics. Using live imaging, we observe how changes in the expression of force-generating proteins, and the geometry of the tissue relate to tissue dynamics at the onset of morphogenesis. We use theoretical and computational methods to model the behavior of the tissue and challenge our findings using select genetic perturbations of the embryos. With this combination of experimental and modeling approaches, we have uncovered how organized multicellular dynamics emerge from genetic, mechanical, and geometric “information” during early Drosophila development.

This type of biological process relies heavily on the consumption of energy, which keeps the system from relaxing to an equilibrium (or dead) state. I will briefly introduce how, in combination with biophysical studies, synthetic model systems allow us to perform highly-controlled tests on the impact of energy input on the self-organization of form and function in different systems.

To join the seminar remotely, please email Kevin Garvey for the Zoom information.

This event was first published on January 5, 2023 and last updated on January 10, 2023.

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