I am a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health with a focus on the underlying physics of biological processes in pathological systems.
My goal is to understand how cell mechanical properties such as tissue stresses, morphology, and dynamics, are interrelated to cell energy metabolism such as glycolytic activity and mitochondrial respiration. Specifically, I am interested in how this interplay controls pathological events found in cancer metastasis, asthma pathogenesis, wound healing, and in healthy tissues such as during embryonic development. I approach these questions by leveraging my quantitative training in biophysics and soft-matter physics in order to understand and experimentally explore problems in basic biology. I value team-oriented work, a healthy and balanced lab/workplace culture, and I always approach problems with a healthy sense of humor.
My postdoctoral work with Jeffrey Fredberg at the Harvard School of Public Health applied my training in physics to basic questions in cell mechanics and energy metabolism. During this period, I initiated a project focused on characterizing the metabolic state of cells during collective epithelial cell migration, while simultaneously measuring cell morphology, dynamics, and mechanics. The primary difficulty in this research has been adapting methods in the field of cell metabolism to resolve metabolic properties with single-cell precision in order to measure spatial gradients and explore heterogeneity across dense, confluent epithelial cell layers. As such, I develop image analysis pipelines to extract multiple biophysical indices from microscopy data. I am currently exploring how glycolytic activity, metabolic redox state, and mitochondrial respiration correlates to cell tractions and migration as measured by traction force microscopy, dynamical measurements from cell tracking, and cell shape/size measurements during events such as collective cell migration and cell unjamming.
My PhD work set the foundation for a transition to biological sciences. I completed my PhD in physics at Brandeis University with mentorship from Zvonimir Dogic. During this time, I was interested in how materials composed of active biological units assemble into dynamical systems that display emergent phenomena. Analogous to how a collection of birds results in a flock, micro-scale cell machinery collectively and autonomously assembles into ordered structures with dynamical and emergent patterns. I heavily applied image analytical tools to characterized a model experimental system, known as an active nematic liquid crystal, composed of cell cytoskeletal and motor proteins. During this project, we explored how the ATP fueled cytoskeletal material results in an active steady-state that drives bend instability and drives liquid crystal defects to spontaneously bind and unbind.
Active microtubule bundles spontaneously assemble and form cilia-like beating oscillations.