Congratulations to Assistant Professor Jun Allard (Department of Mathematics and Physics & Astronomy) for receiving a 5-year NSF Career Award on the topic of "Mathematical Framework for Elucidating Mechanics at Immune Cell Interfaces."
Dr. Allard's work will focus on developing mathematical models of the physical interactions at cell-cell interfaces, with particular emphasis on immune cells that need to decipher information - relevant to self and non-self recognition and disease processes - from transient dynamic cellular contacts. The dynamics at these interfaces involve an interplay between transport, mechanics and chemical kinetics, and play out over a range of length and time-scales, necessitating a combination of mathematical techniques, including systems of elliptic, parabolic and stochastic differential equations; computational fluid dynamics of liquid-structure interactions; Brownian dynamics; as well as Bayesian statistics that leverages quantitative experimental data. This work therefore aims to provide a deeper understanding of how cells overcome and exploit physical constraints to cell-cell contact, by developing a model that integrates motion of the intracellular and extracellular fluid, Brownian motion of molecules embedded in the cell's membranes and active forces. Dr. Allard will also explore the mechanism and evolutionary advantages of molecular clustering, and develop, validate and apply mesoscale models of large flexible biomolecules to decipher their mechanical properties and biological role. These mesoscale models are suitable to exploring timescales that all-atom molecular dynamics cannot, while capturing details that particle-based simulations miss.
Results from the work will have direct implications for understanding immune function, impacting research on autoimmune disease and immunotherapy. Students recruited to these projects will have the opportunity to gain exposure to contemporary work at the interface of mathematics, biology and physics.