John Williamson, Guillaume Salbreux's group

This is a position in Guillaume Salbreux's group supervised John Williamson

The physics of a developing tissue in fruit fly

Our lab applies physical principles to describe biological processes at cell and tissue scales. We employ methods from soft matter, fluid mechanics, active materials, etc., and develop new theoretical and computational tools. Work in the lab ranges from fundamental theory to applied modelling, hand-in-hand with experimentalists.

The student will join a collaboration with an experimental group, studying tissue development in Drosophila (fruit fly). Our collaborators have used live imaging to observe the growth and development of the Drosophila abdomen. The student will apply physical and computational methods to this rich experimental dataset, using analysis techniques already available within the lab and developing their own. They will assist in modelling the biological system, the ultimate aim being a theoretical explanation of the experimental observations. In particular, we wish to understand the relationship between local and global mechanical forces and key cellular behaviours such as cell proliferation, cell death and cell-cell rearrangements. This knowledge will help us understand how tissue growth is controlled during normal development and how this process can go wrong in pathological situations such as cancer.

Through this project the student will learn to see biology through a physicist's eyes: how do we extract quantitative mechanical information? What are the key ingredients for a tractable theory? They will gain valuable experience of collaborating across disciplines, and a wider appreciation of questions at the forefront of biological physics.

The project will suit a student studying physical sciences or mathematics/computing. Experience in scientific programming (MATLAB, C, similar) and/or data manipulation in R would be a plus.

1. Etournay, R., Popović, M., Merkel, M., Nandi, A., Blasse, C., Aigouy, B., Brandl, H., Myers, G., Salbreux, G., Jülicher, F. and Eaton, S. (2015)

Interplay of cell dynamics and epithelial tension during morphogenesis of the Drosophila pupal wing.

eLife 4: e07090. PubMed abstract

2. Williamson, J. J. and Salbreux, G. (2017)

Preprint: Stability of an interface between competing mechanically-regulated tissues.

Available at: arXiv.