To describe my short career in academic research so far, writing a PhD thesis and pursuing a couple of post-doctoral projects, the best words I could use are probably “computational material scientist”. I develop and apply computational modelling methods, based on physics and mechanics, to explore and explain how properties or mechanisms emerge in matter across scales. It led me to study a wide spectrum of systems, from stability of concrete structures under seismic loading, to migration of mesenchymal stem cells, and currently, failure of polymer nanocomposites.
Building on the experience of these different projects, I now aim at pursuing my research in the field of biophysics, and in particular mechanobiology. I want to understand how cells and their environment interact, with an emphasis on mechanical cues. My approach resides in using computational models to formalise and test theories or hypotheses drawn from experimental observations. As a principle the complex cell behaviour, during mitosis, migration and so on, can be pictured as combination of rather simple physical mechanisms, aimed at optimising a few biological patterns.
Understanding interactions between cells and their environment will lead to the design of ever more integrable, efficient biomaterials for tissue engineering, at the intersection of material science and cell biology.
hierarchies of cell nucleus organization: the hierarchical process by which eukaryotic double-stranded DNA (two meters long, in the case of humans) is packaged within the confines of a micrometers-sized cell. [Woodcock et al., 2001].
However, these simple physical mechanisms, are staged at different levels of the cell architecture, from the microscopic cell environment to molecules constituting DNA. To understand the way these mechanisms combine to produce the complex cellular behaviour that biologists observe, they need to be embedded altogether in a computational model. In a computational utopia, one would be able to predict the consequences of forces applied to the cell on the DNA conformation, conditioning the structure of the chromatin and regulating the expression of numbers of genes.
More realistically, I plan to build simplified models integrating key interacting scales. My experience of different modelling techniques at scale ranging from the nanoscale where atoms and molecules lie, to the human scale, where tissues and even organ can be depicted, as well as with techniques designed to combine all of these different methods, should prove to be beneficial. These multiscale models would be use in explaining the way mechanobiological complexity assembles and emerge.