MechE Colloquium: Active biological flows


Event details

Date 22.03.2022
Hour 12:0013:00
Speaker Prof. Eric Lauga, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge
Location Online
Category Conferences - Seminars
Face masks are recommended for in-person attendance in MED 0 1418.

Biology is dominated by transport problems involving fluid flows, from the diffusion of nutrients and locomotion to flows around plants and the circulatory system of animals. The biological realm has therefore long been a source of inspiration for fluid mechanicians. In this talk, I will discuss three instances of biological flows arising on small scales, and our theoretical efforts to understand them. 

First I will present our work modelling active flows in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The ER is a cellular organelle taking the form of a network of fluid-filled tubules and sheets that performs essential cellular functions such as protein synthesis and transport. Single particle tracking in ER networks has revealed active transport, significantly enhanced relative to pure diffusion. In this work, we build a model to test a recent hypothesis for the origin of this active flow quantitatively. 

Next, I will discuss our work on artificial cytoplasmic streaming. Recent experiments in cell biology have generate artificially induced intracellular flows using focused light localised in a small region of the cell to create a thermo-viscous flow globally inside the cell. I will present a theoretical model of the fluid flow induced by the focused light which shows excellent agreement with experimental results. 

Finally I will discuss active flows that are generated in suspensions of swimming microorganisms. Recent experiment have shown that magnetotactic bacteria in spherical confinement self-organise in a global vortex provided that their concentration (or the external magnetic field) is large enough. We build a theoretical model of this phenomenon, showing in particular the relationship between the local flows generated by the swimmers and their ability to induce long-range self-organisation. 

Biography: Eric Lauga is Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated from Ecole Polytechnique (France) in 1998 and the Corps des Mines Program from Ecole des Mines de Paris in 2001. After receiving an M.S. in Fluid Mechanics from University of Paris Pierre et Marie Curie (France) in 2001, he earned his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University in 2005 where he worked in theoretical modeling of flow phenomena at the micron scale. Prior to joining Cambridge, he was on the faculty at MIT (Mathematics) and at the University of California, San Diego (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering). He is a recipient of the NSF CAREER award (2008) and of three awards from the American Physical Society: the Andreas Acrivos Dissertation Award in Fluid Dynamics (2006), the François Frenkiel Award for Fluid Mechanics (2015) and the Early Career Award for Soft Matter Research (2018). He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. His research interests include theoretical approaches to model viscous flows, in particular in a biological context, the dynamics of complex fluids and interdisciplinary problems in soft matter physics. He is currently co-Lead editor for the APS journal Physical Review Fluids.

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free



MechE Colloquium: Active biological flows