Physics of Biological Soft Matter

Our lab is fascinated by the material properties of the biological soft matter that shapes our bodies: living cells and tissues. Living matter comprises viscoelastic materials with some resemblance to man-made soft materials such as polymer gels. However, they are unique in their ability to actively generate forces and change shape. We aim to understand the physical mechanisms that underlie this striking active mechanical behavior. We approach this challenge by combining concepts and techniques from soft matter physics, biophysics, bottom-up synthetic biology, protein engineering, and mechanobiology. We furthermore develop advanced measurement techniques that combine quantitative imaging with force measurements across length scales ranging from the cell/tissue level down to molecular scales.

We pursue two main research lines: building cells and building tissues