BioPICS: Biophysics of Pluri-cellular Interactions and CooperationS
I’m an experimental physicist working at the interface of Biophysics, Statistical and Non-linear physics and Hydrodynamics. Within those fields, I find particular interests in self-organization, many-body phenomena and the physics of micro-organisms. Although I come from a pure physics background, I have become fascinated by the way microbial life works. Despite having relatively limited sensorial and physical abilities due to their tiny size, micro-organisms achieve individually or collectively amazing things to survive and even thrive in most parts of the globe. Unveiling the complex physical mechanisms that mediate their behaviors is a captivating field of research in which I have been working in the past ~5 years. Before moving to biophysical studies of microbes, I have worked on the collective behaviors of flow-driven emulsions that emerge from hydrodynamic interactions between the droplets. A constant in my research since day one is the use of microfluidic tools, video microscopy and image analysis.
Since September 2019 I hold a Junior Research Chair (JRC) at the Department of Physics of Ecole Normale Supérieure (LabEx ENS-ICFP). There I am starting a project aiming to study inducible cooperative behaviors amongst unicellular phytoplankton and their link to the evolutionary transition to multicellularity. Following the common adage “united we stand”, some motile and normally selfish algal populations, notably Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, phase separate into sticky clusters when (chemically) sensing predation danger nearby. Studying the microscopic features (e.g. cell-cell adhesion, chemotaxis) involved in such grouping process appears crucial to better understand the emergence and evolution of group individuality in the history of life. By applying microfluidic tools, cell micro-manipulation, advanced video microscopy and image analysis, this research will bring essential empirical insights into a centuries-old question.