Self-Organization of Multicellular Systems

Welcome to our group webpage! We are a joint research group, established in 2021, between the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS) and the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), based at the Center for Systems Biology Dresden (CSBD).

We are theorists, but we collaborate closely with experimentalists, at MPI-CBG and beyond, on problems in theoretical biophysics, applied mathematics, and soft matter physics.



We want to understand how the mechanical properties of individual cells emerge from those of their constituents, and in turn give rise to mechanical properties at the level of the tissues that these cells form:

What are the continuum theories that describe biological tissues and the processes, such as cell migration and cell intercalation, that they undergo during development?

Example: coarse-graining a discrete model of a cell sheet  reveals nonlinear elastic and nonlocal, nonelastic contributions in the continuum limit [Haas & Goldstein, Phys. Rev. E 99, 022411 (2019)]


In close collaboration with experimental groups, we use this mechanical, physical understanding to understand how these emergent mechanical properties affect and constrain tissue deformations during development and hence answer different biological questions. One question of interest is:

How is robust development possible in spite of large amounts of biological variability and mechanical constraints?

Example: analysis of the variability of a Volvox embryo turning itself inside out; experimental embryo cross sections reproduced quantitatively by an elastic model [Haas et al., PLoS Biol. 16, e2005536 (2018)]

Read more about our research projects here, including about other projects inx§ soft matter physics, theoretical ecology, ...