Invited speakers

  • Adaptive division control and cell shape regulation in bacteria

       Shiladitya Banerjee, University College London, UK

  • Integrin adhesions at the crossroad between microtubules and the actomyosin cytoskeleton

       Alexander Bershadsky, National University of Singapore, Singapore

  • TBC

       Kevin Chalut, University of Cambridge, UK

  • Matrix mechanosensing: from scaling concepts in ’omics data to mechanisms in the nucleus and tumor heterogeneity 

       Dennis Discher, University of Pennsylvania, USA

  • (Tentative title) Bacterial collective behaviour

       Knut Drescher, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Germany

  • Cell division: Mechanical integrity with dynamic parts

       Sophie Dumont, UCSF, USA

  • How collections of regulatory proteins give rise to actin bundles

       Jenny Gallop, The Gurdon Institute, UK

  • Oscillations in single-cell motility: simple one-dimensional models

       Nir Gov, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel

  • Polymer choreography in the nuclear pore complex

       Bart Hoogenboom, University College London, UK

  • Mechanics of biological soft matter across scales

       Gijsje Koenderink, AMOLF, The Netherlands

  • Evolutionary self-organisation: lessons from the polarisation machinery in budding yeast

       Liedewij Laan, Delft University of Technology, The Nederlands, UK

  • The OrganoPlate: Human organ-on-a-chip tissue models for predictive drug testing in any throughput

       Henriette Lanz, MIMETAS, The Netherlands

  • Shaping cell contacts during tissue morphogenesis

       Pierre Francois Lenne, Marseille Luminy, France

  • Living tissues as active materials

       Cristina Marchetti, Syracuse University, USA

  • From skin to brain, cyclic strain is a potent cue for our cells

       Rudolf Merkel, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany

  • Active Contraction or Expansion of disordered cytoskeletal networks

       Francois Nedelec, EMBL Heidelberg, Germany

  • Disassembling actin filaments with proteins and mechanical stress

       Guillaume Romet-Lemonne, IJM, France

  • Physical virology: unveiling self-assembly principles and mechanics of viral particles 

       Wouter Roos, RUG Groningen, The Netherlands

  • Buckling of epithelium growing under spherical confinement

       Aurelien Roux, University of Geneva, Switzerland

  • Polarized cell locomotion in soft tissues mediated by microtubule actin crosstalk

       Erich Sackmann, Technische Universität München, Germany

  • A systems view on starfish surface contraction waves: from cell cycle regulation through actomyosin contractility to cytoplasmic flows

       Ulrich Schwarz, Universität Heidelberg, Germany

  • Physical effects in cell adhesion

       Kheya Sengupta, CINaM - Interdisciplinary Center of Nanoscience of Marseille, France

  • Nuclear reprogramming: a leap forward through mechanobiology

       G V Shivashankar, Mechanobiology Institute, Singapore

  • TBC

       Tom Shimizu, AMOLF, The Netherlands

  • TBC

       Ana Suncana Smith, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany

  • (Tentative Title) Mechanical regulation of cell membranes studied by model membrane systems

       Margarita Staykova, University of Durham, UK

  • Epithelial order and planar polarity: uncoupling the coupled

       David Strutt, University of Sheffield, UK

  • TBC

       Raphael Voituriez, UPMC, France

  • Single molecule manipulation and imaging of COMPLEX DNA-protein transactions

       Gijs Wuite, VU Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Speaker biographies

  Shiladitya Banerjee is a Group Leader at the Institute for the Physics of Living Systems and the Department of the Physics and Astronomy, University College London. His group focuses on understanding the design and mechanics of living systems from molecular to organismic scales, using theory and simulations.

Alexander Bershadsky graduated from the Moscow State University with an MSc in mathematics and obtained his PhD in Cell Biology at the Cancer Research Center of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, where he continued to work until 1992. He published a book “Cytoskeleton” (1988, Plenum Press) together with J.M. Vasiliev.  In 1992, Bershadsky moved to Israel and joined the Weizmann Institute of Science where he served sequentially as assistant, associate, and full professor, and is now (since 2017) a professor emeritus. Whilst at the Weizmann Institute, the Bershadsky laboratory was among the first to study the adhesion-dependent cell mechanosensitivity and microtubule-driven control of integrin-mediated adhesions. In 2009, he joined the Mechanobiology Institute (MBI) at the National University of Singapore where he currently holds a full-time position of Principal Research Scientist/Research Professor. Bershadsky’s research interests include cytoskeleton dynamics and self-organization, and the crosstalk between the cytoskeleton and cell adhesion.

  Dennis Discher is the Robert D. Bent chaired Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of a National Cancer Institute-funded Physical Sciences Oncology Center at Penn, where he has been since 1996.  His lab discovered matrix elasticity effects on stem cell differentiation and generally takes a soft matter physics and polymer approach to cell biology questions. Recent efforts focus most specifically on mechanobiological determinants of DNA damage and genome variation, as well as macrophage engineering to infiltrate and attack tumors. He is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, the US National Academy of Medicine, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  He earned his PhD from UC Berkeley & UC San Francisco in membrane biophysics and splicing biochemistry, was a Postdoctoral Fellow in computational biophysics at University of British Columbia & Simon Fraser University, and holds appointments at Penn in Engineering & Applied Science as well as the Graduate Groups in Physics and Pharmacology. Additional honors and service include the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Award from the Humboldt Foundation of Germany and member of the Editorial Board of Science.

Knut Drescher received his undergraduate education in physics at the University of Oxford, before pursuing a PhD in biophysics at the University of Cambridge. He became interested in molecular biology and bacterial biofilms during his postdoctoral training at Princeton University, in the Department of Molecular Biology from 2011-2014. In 2015, Knut Drescher moved to the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Germany, where he is leading a research group focused on combining methods from physics and molecular biology to understand bacterial collective behaviors. Knut Drescher is also a professor of biophysics at the Philipps University of Marburg, where he teaches undergraduate courses.

  Sophie Dumont is from Québec, Canada. She received her B.A. in physics from Princeton University, and Ph.D. in biophysics from UC Berkeley where she probed the mechanics of individual biomolecules with Carlos Bustamante. She was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and postdoc at Harvard Medical School where she worked on the mechanics of cell division with Tim Mitchison. She started her lab at UCSF (University of California, San Francisco) in 2012, and her group focuses on the self-organization and emergent mechanics that drive robust chromosome segregation.

Jenny Gallop did her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Oxford. She then moved to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology for her PhD with Harvey McMahon and Phil Evans. There she showed that the mechanism of endophililn N-BAR domain membrane curvature generation was via amphipathic helix insertion and protein scaffolding. For her postdoc Jenny moved to Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA to work with Marc Kirschner. There she used her knowledge of membranes to work on the link between membranes and actin polymerization, setting up cell-free systems of actin polymerization in cell extracts using membrane mimics of different curvature and composition. Jenny started her lab at the Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, UK in 2011, with the award of a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship, then an ERC Starting Grant. Her vision is to explain how signaling at membranes causes specific kinds of actin cytoskeletal rearrangements during cell migration and membrane trafficking. 

  Bart Hoogenboom is Professor of Biophysics at the London Centre for Nanotechnology and at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University College London. He has was awarded his PhD on high-Tc superconductivity at the University of Geneva in 2002, developed atomic force microscopy (AFM) instrumentation as a postdoc in Basel, and since 2007 has led a biophysics research group in London, where he uses AFM in combination with other techniques to understand physical mechanisms of biomolecular processes. His research highlights include the first visualisation of the DNA double helix in solution, the nanomechanical and computational characterisation of different phases formed by disordered assemblies of nuclear pore proteins, and the elucidation of mechanisms of membrane perforation by antimicrobial peptides and by pore forming proteins in bacterial attack and immune defence.
  Gijsje Koenderink heads the Biological Soft Matter group and the Living Matter department head at the NWO institute AMOLF in Amsterdam. Her group studies the physics of cells and tissues using synthetic biology, quantitative microscopy, and mechanical measurements. She has a background in physical chemistry and soft condensed matter physics, with an MSc (1998) and a PhD (2003) in Chemistry at Utrecht University. After a postdoc in biophysics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (2003) and at Harvard University (2004-2006), she moved to AMOLF. Her research straddles the interface of biophysics, soft condensed matter, and cell biology.

Liedewij Laan obtained her PhD in Physics (2009) by combining minimal in vitro experiments and theory to study cytoskeletal forces and organisation in the group of Marileen Dogterom. Subsequently she joined the lab of Andrew Murray at Harvard to investigate evolutionary dynamics in the polarisation network in budding yeast. In October 2014 Liedewij started her own group at Delft University of Technology, where she combines minimal in vitro systems, experimental evolution, quantitative cell biology, physical modelling and bioinformatics to obtain a quantitative molecular understanding of the reorganization of the yeast polarity network over evolutionary timescales.

    Pierre-François Lenne studies the physical principles that underpin the morphogenesis of animals. CNRS research director and group leader at the Developmental Biology Institute of Marseille France, he develops and applies quantitative approaches to understand how mechanical and physical interactions are organized at cell surfaces and how these interactions give rise to cell and tissue responses. To tackle these questions, his current research focuses on two aspects of tissue morphogenesis, namely tissue shaping and polarization.
  Cristina Marchetti is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Physics at Syracuse University. She obtained her Laurea in physics from the University of Pavia and earned her Ph.D. in the U.S. at the University of Florida. She joined the faculty at Syracuse University in 1987, after postdoctoral appointments at the University of Maryland, Rockefeller University and City College. Marchetti is a versatile theoretical physicist who has worked on a broad range of problems including supercooled fluids, glasses and superconductors. Currently, she is interested in understanding the emergent behavior of soft and biological materials, from vibrating grains of sand to cell motion in living tissues. She has held elected positions in the American Physical Society and was awarded a Rotschild-Mayent Fellowship at the Institut Curie and a Simons Fellowship in Theoretical Physics. 

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Rudolf Merkel

  • 1982-1988: Studies of “General Physics”, Technical University Munich 
  • 1988-1993: PhD in Physics, Title of the thesis "Determination of diffusive motions in lipid monolayers and in two-dimensional solutions of polymers via time resolved measurements of excimer fluorescence". Physics Department, Technical University of Munich, group of Prof Erich Sackmann
  • 1993-1995: Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, group of Prof Evan Evans
  •                    Feodor Lynen Fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
  • 1996- 2000: Head of the independent junior research group "Molecular force measurements and rheology at soft interfaces" within the SFB266
  • 2000: Habilitation in Experimental Physics at the Technical University Munich (Title of the Thesis "Physics of Biomimetic Surfaces: Dynamic Strength of Single Specific Bonds, Amphiphilic Polymer Self Organization and Technical Developments")
  • 2001: Heisenberg Fellow of the DFG
  • 2001-present: Director of the Institute of Complex Systems 7: Biomechanics at the Research Centre Jülich
  • 2002-present: Professor of Physical Chemistry at the Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms Universität Bonn (Joint appointment according to the "Jülich Model")

Francois Nedelec was trained in physics and applied math and obtained his PhD in 1998 from Paris University and lead a group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory studying the role of the cytoskeleton in Cell and Developmental Biology. To analyze cytoskeletal systems following synthetic and systems biology approaches his group has developed bio-physical and quantitative analysis methods, with a strong theory component. It established cytosim, an Open Source computer simulation platform ( that can simulate the interactions of thousands of filaments with millions of associated proteins such as molecular motors according to the laws of mechanics and stochastic reaction-kinetics. Cytosim was applied to various problems involving actin or microtubules networks, and was also used to guide the development of analytical theory. 

  Wouter Roos obtained his PhD in biophysics in Heidelberg and after a post-doc period at the Max-Planck-Institut für Metallforschung (Stuttgart) and Institut Curie (Paris) he went to the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam to focus on Physical Virology techniques and approaches. In particular he studied (and still studies) material properties of viruses using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). In 2015 he accepted the chair in Molecular Biophysics at the Zernike Institute, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Here Roos is heading a research group focusing on mechanics and dynamics from molecular to cellular length scales, including studies on viral self-assembly and mechanics, extra-cellular vesicles and membrane proteins. By using techniques such as (High Speed-)AFM, Optical Tweezers and Fluorescence Microscopy, the lab is aiming to describe and unravel physical principles of (sub)cellular mechanics and dynamics and to elucidate mechanisms behind protein and supramolecular assembly functionality.
  Guillaume Romet-Lemonne leads the group “Regulation of actin assembly dynamics”, together with Antoine Jegou, at Institut Jacques Monod (Paris, France). Their group works at the interface between biophysics and biochemistry. Their research focuses on the biochemical and mechanical regulation of the actin cytoskeleton, through in vitro experiments with purified proteins. In particular, they have developed an original microfluidics approach for the study of individual filaments, which provides new insights into a number of molecular mechanisms.
  G V Shivashankar is currently a Principal Investigator and Deputy Director of the Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore. Shivashankar carried out his PhD research at the Rockefeller University (1994-1999) and Postdoctoral research at NEC Research Institute, Princeton USA (1999-2000). He started his laboratory at the National Center for Biological Sciences, TIFR- Bangalore, India (2000-2009). He then relocated to a tenured faculty position at the National University of Singapore in 2009. His scientific awards include: the Birla Science Prize (2006), The Swarnajayanthi Fellowship (2007). In addition, he was elected to the Indian Academy of Sciences (2010). He edited the Methods in Cell Biology series book on “Nuclear Mechanics and Genome Regulation” (2010), Elsevier Press. More recently, he also heads the Joint Research Laboratory with the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology (IFOM), Milan, Italy and he was appointed as an IFOM-NUS Chair Professor in 2014.
  Ulrich Schwarz is a professor for theoretical biophysics at Heidelberg University, working at the interface between statistical physics, soft matter physics, biophysics and cell biology. He is an expert on cell adhesion and mechanics, in particular in regard to the actomyosin system, and often combines theoretical models with experimental data, for example from traction force microscopy. He earned his PhD in 1998 with Gerhard Gompper and Reinhard Lipowsky at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces at Potsdam, Germany. From 1998-2000 he was a Postdoc with Sam Safran at the Weizmann Institute at Rehovot, Israel. After running an Emmy Noether junior research group from 2000-2008 on modelling cell adhesion, he became a professor, first at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) and then at Heidelberg University. At Heidelberg, he is currently the director of the Institute for Theoretical Physics (ITP). He also is member of the Faculty of Biosciences, the BioQuant-Center for Quantitative Biology, the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing (IWR) and the cluster of excellence CellNetworks. He currently serves on the editorial boards of New Journal of Physics (NJP) and Physical Review E (PRE). He loves teaching and in the current summer term 2018 offers a lecture course on “Theoretical Biophysics” and a seminar on “Biophysics of sensing, signaling and cell fate decisions”.
  Kheya Sengupta is a CNRS research director and a Principal Investigator at the centre for interdisciplinary nano-sciences (CINaM) at Marseilles. Her current interests include adhesion and mechanical properties of cells and cell mimetic model systems. Her recent work using model membranes underlines the importance of spatial-fluctuations in modulation of cell adhesion. She also contributed to understanding the role of dissipative forces, and ligand clustering in T cell spreading. Kheya Sengupta did her PhD in Bangalore with V. A. Raghunathan on liquid-crystalline phases of lipids. She then joined the laboratory of Erich Sackmann in Munich with an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship to study bio-mimetic membranes. After spending time as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, where she worked with Paul Janmey on cell mechanics and cell adhesion, she came back to Germany as a research associate at the Forschungszentrum Julich in the laboratory of Rudolf Merkel. Here she continued her work on adhesion, and development of RIC- microscopy. In 2007 she joined the National Scientific Research Council of France (CNRS) and moved to Marseilles, where she develops surface patterning and advanced microscopic tools to understand the physics underlying cellular interactions with their environment.
  Ana-Suncana Smith received her Ph.D. under the supervision of Prof. E. Sackmann, in 2004 at the E22 Institute for Biophysics, TU Munich. Since 2012, she is Full Professor at the Institute for Theoretical Physics, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany. Since 2013. she is also adjunct scientists at the Rudjer Boskovic Institute, Croatia. Her Group for Physics Underlying Life Sciences (PULS) at both institutions comprises 20 students, from graduate to postdoctoral researchers. Her primary research interest is in applying concepts from statistical physics to biomedical problems, focusing on the understanding of physical determinants of the cell recognition process. Her efforts in constructing cell mimetic models for adhesion by using functionalized liposomes are supported by an ERC Starting Grant. In recent years, she started working on physical modes for tissue growth and development, where most of the work is directed toward controlling the microenvironment, such as physical and biochemical properties of the extracellular matrix and osmotic conditions, in which the cells grow with the aim to understand and manipulate the relation between biomechanical and biochemical signalling.
  Margarita Staykova is an assistant professor at Durham University, UK. She did her undergraduate education in Sofia, Bulgaria and received her PhD in Biophysics from University of Rostock, Germany. Before moving to Durham in 2013, she worked as a postdoc in the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Germany (2007-2009) and in Princeton University (2009-2013). Her group uses in vitro model systems to understand the mechanical properties of the cell interface.

Prof. Gijs Wuite obtained his PhD in biophysics in 2000. Since 2001 he leads his own group at the VU University Amsterdam and in 2009 was appointed to full professor. In his research he has successfully applied quantitative physical tools to investigate fundamental problems in biology, and to search for the unification of apparently unrelated biological phenomena. Moreover, he has been at the front of recent new and fast developments of biophysical techniques that have enabled visualization, manipulation and control of complex biological reactions. Based on this research work he founded in 2014 a company (LUMICKS) that sell the technology he and his group has developed. His work has appeared in journals such as Nature, Science, PNAS and Physical Review Letters. His research has been awarded with the prestigious personal VIDI, VICI and ERC grants. Wuite was appointed member of the Young Academy (2009) and Global Young Academy (2014). In 2018 he won the Dutch Physics Valorisation prize, for successfully launching a company based on his research.


Key dates

  • Early booking deadline for exhibitors:
    29 March 2018
  • Early registration deadline [extended]:
    12 July 2018
  • Abstract submission deadline for posters ONLY:
    17 August 2018
  • Registration deadline:
    17 August 2018

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