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Julio Belmonte


I am funded by an EIPOD fellowship between the Leptin and Nedelec groups. Development of multi-cellular organisms involves coordinated large-scale changes of tissues, where cells differentiate, change shape and produce local deforming forces that give rise to new structures. In my project I combine experimental and simulation techniques to understand how different cells in the Drosophila embryo generate and transmit forces during gastrulation.


Serge Dmitrieff


Membranes are what define the cells and their compartments as distinct biological units. However, they can also be seen as a ubiquitous trafficking platform. I study how the membrane mechanics play a role in intracellular transport. Transport phenomena also involve reorganization of the cytoskeleton, and we study the coupling of membrane with actin and microtubules.


Iana Kalinina


Xenopus egg cytoplasmic extracts have the fascinating ability to assemble mitotic spindles. It has been shown that exogenous chromatin bound to beads is sufficient to trigger spindle assembly. Combined with micropatterning techniques and protein depletion it is an excellent tool for mitotic spindle research. Although a single egg has a big volume (about 1 μl), extract preparation done by centrifuging the eggs requires crushing together about 1000 of eggs. The problem comes with variation in the quality of the eggs, which can cause irreproducible results. It would be better to use a single egg for assembly of spindle arrays. Therefore, the aim of my project is to develop a spindle assembly assay based on microfluidics, in collaboration with the Merten group. We hope to run ~10 assays in parallel on a single chip, where each assay is performed with the material of a single egg.


Andrea Picco


I study endocytosis, one of the fundamental trafficking processes in the cell, using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model. My research is focussed on understanding the spatio-temporal organization of the proteins involved in the endocytic process. Remarkably, the endocytic invagination and vesicle budding rely on the actin cytoskeleton. I combine the light microscopy expertise present in the Kaksonen group, together with the modelling expertise present in Nedelec group, to investigate the organization of the actin cytoskeleton and its interplay with the membrane at the endocytic locus.


Aastha Mathur

PhD student

Across various cellular systems, cytoskeletal rearrangement is known to drive even the most drastic morphological changes. I work to gain mechanistic under- standing of such a process in platelets. Enucleate cell fragments of 2-3μm diameter, platelets play an important role in blood clotting. Combining dynamic informa- tion from live cell microscopy with structural information from electron tomogra- phy into a computational model in Cytosim, I want to elucidate how competitive forces between actin and microtubules maintain the resting shape as well as drive the changes in morphology during activation platelets.


Francois Nedelec

Group leader

Our long-term research objective is to understand cytoskeletal organization in living cells, with an emphasis on mitosis. We develop in-vitro assays, quantitative image analysis and cytosim, a computer simulation to study cellular architecture from a mechanistic perspective, modeling the interactions of fibers and associated proteins such as molecular motors. At the moment, I am finishing up the next version of Cytosim.


Kasia Tarnawska

Bridging Postdoc

It is known that microtubules present 2 pathways of nucleation: centrosome and chromatin mediated. We investigate a new technique, deep UV illumination, to pattern chromatin coated beads to follow the spindle assembly dynamics in Xenopus laevis egg extract. This method can circumvent some of the limitations of micro-contact printing commonly used in our lab. Combining this technique with a microfluidic device will offer the ability to work with smaller volumes of extract, shorter reaction time and the possibility of running many experiments in parallel.


Karin Sasaki

Staff Scientist

Karin Sasaki is running the center for mathematical modelling. Building on the breakthroughs of molecular biology, the life sciences are becoming increasingly quantitative and as more information is gathered on biological process, it becomes harder to encompass them with human intuition alone. In the last decade, the realisation of these challenges has lead to the increased adoption of mathematical modelling approach into biological research. The aim of the centre is to encourage and assist researchers at EMBL in the adoption of modelling into their research.


Herve Turlier


My research is focused on the theoretical description of cell shapes dynamics. Using analytical and simulation methods, I’m particularly working on the morphogenesis of one to a few interacting cells in the early mouse embryo, in collaboration with the group of Takashi Hiiragi.


Jonathan Ward


One of the oldest and most important questions in biology is how life organises itself into forms that are both very precise in the sense that they are repeatable but also general in the sense that a huge variety of forms can be generated by subtle changes in the organization of the component parts. The fundamental unit of life is the cell and is a natural starting point for investigating this question. My research is focussed at understanding how the cytoskeleton directs changes in cell shape during the life cycle of the model eukaryotic organism S. pombe.