MechE Seminar: Studying Multicellular Biological Systems as Soft Matter


Event details

Date 08.02.2023
Hour 15:1516:15
Speaker Dr. Haicen Yue, Department of Physics, Emory University
Location Online
Category Conferences - Seminars
Abstract: In complex living organisms, most biological functions are realized at the multicellular level, such as tissues and organs, which are composed of many interacting cells. Collective organizations and emergent phenomena pose new challenges in the study of these multicellular systems beyond the knowledge of single cell behavior. The study of soft matter, such as liquids and soft solids, with established theoretical and numerical tools, as well as the way of thinking in connecting microscopic elements and macroscopic properties, will certainly contribute to our understanding of multicellular systems. In this talk, I will use a specific research on the fusion of spherical multicellular systems, analogous to the coalescence of liquid drops, to show the potency of this direction. In this work, we used numerical simulations and theoretical arguments to study how dissipative coupling to the background, which is a feature that distinguishes multicellular systems (as well as some non-living systems) from simple liquids, affects the coalescence dynamics. We find that the dissipative dynamics alone leads to a novel class of coalescence universality, with different overall shape evolution, as well as new scaling laws. We demonstrate these effects via particle-based simulations and with both continuum and boundary-integral solutions of the hydrodynamics equations, and then understand them in the context of a generalized Navier-Stokes-like equation. Our results provide a basis for better interpretation of results from many areas of study, including the fusion of cellular and macromolecular aggregates, which is ubiquitous in living systems, as well as the coalescence of complex liquid droplets, which has wide applications in industry. In addition, this work will be the basis for a series of future researches on the fusion of multicellular aggregates, taking into account more specific features for living matter, such as out-of-equilibrium, special interactions, etc.

Biography: Haicen Yue is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physics at Emory University. She is working in Daniel Sussman's group on the fusion of multicellular aggregates from the perspective of soft matter and statistical physics. She received her Ph.D. in physics in 2018 from the University of California San Diego, where she mainly studied the signaling networks that control cell movement in Wouter-Jan Rappel's group. She then spent two years at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University, where she studied mechanical forces and interactions in cell migration in Alex Mogilner's group. During this research experience, she developed a strong interest in connecting the signaling or mechanical mechanisms she was studying at the cellular level with properties and phenomena at the much larger length scale. In the future, her group will focus on questions of fusion, organization, and interfacial instabilities of multicellular systems from a soft matter perspective, using theoretical and computational tools in combination with experimental collaborations to understand important biological and bioengineering processes such as development, tissue engineering, and tumor invasion.

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free


MechE Seminar: Studying Multicellular Biological Systems as Soft Matter