I am an independent, cross-functional, and creative scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health with strong communication skills and over 13 years of experimental physics research experience. My primary focus leverages the quantitative sciences to elucidate complex biophysical processes using novel optical instrumentation techniques in combination with methods borrowed from experimental physics labs and custom data analysis software. I balance high-level research strategy simultaneously with in-the-weeds details. My track-record shows success in developing novel research methods and employing image and data analytics to achieve high-impact advances in the fields of materials science and biophysics. As an experimentalist, I approach research problems with an open mind for creative solutions, a collaborative, team-oriented attitude, and a sense of humor.
My postdoc research goal: My goal is to understand how cell mechanical properties such as tissue stresses, cell morphology, and cell dynamics, are interrelated to cell energy metabolism such as glycolytic activity and mitochondrial respiration. How do cells regulate energy metabolism while exerting physical forces on their surrounding, such as those that occur during 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.
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. Additional obstacles included integrating biological measurements with mechanics measurements such as traction force microscopy. As such, I developed image analysis pipelines to simultaneously extract multiple biophysical indices from microscopy data. This project has resulted in a significant finding that shows cell's switch towards glycolytic metabolism during collective epithelial cell unjamming. Furthermore, this work has connected two previously separate fields that I now call Mechano-bioenergetics.
Training in physics: I completed my PhD in physics (with an attachement in Quantitative Biology) at Brandeis University with mentorship from Zvonimir Dogic. During this time, I developed bio-inspired materials composed of biological constituents (biopolymers and molecular motors) that were assembled into dynamical systems that display emergent phenomena. Analogous to flocking behavior exhibited by birds, micro-scale cell machinery collectively and autonomously assembles into ordered structures with dynamical and emergent patterns that were previously unpredicted. I developed new experimental methods and heavily applied image analytical tools to characterized these active materials. This project pioneered novel bioengineered materials, spawning a new area of physics in active matter research. Further, I gained expertise in custom experimental instrumentation and hardware including optics such as laser confocal, fluorescence, and polarization-light microscopy and spectroscopy for sample quantification.
Active microtubule bundles spontaneously assemble and form cilia-like beating oscillations.