Changing form with heat and light

ELBE visiting scientist at the CSBD

The ELBE Visiting Faculty Program hosts another guest this summer. New Zealand born Mark Warner is spending four weeks at our Center, primarily to work with Carl Modes, research group leader at the CSBD and the Max-Planck-Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG).

Mark is a professor of theoretical physics in the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge. He discovered, with co-workers in England and Germany, synthetic materials that make huge changes in their dimensions in response to heat and to light. A big step forward then came in collaboration with Carl Modes, to make such materials respond in complex, pre-determined geometries by programming the directions of the length change. Complete and beautiful shell-like shape transformation resulted from this intervention.

I have had a long and very successful collaboration with Carl, and it is a wonderful opportunity to establish new contacts at the intersection of theoretical physics and biology here at the CSBD and the MPI-CBG,” Mark says. The researcher explains that his group has been interested in synthetic systems, but that their work also relates to core areas of the MPI-CBG. In particular, there are parallels to the phenomena explored in the Eaton lab, which investigates how spatial patterns of growth lead to specific shape and curvature in the fruit fly wing.

Mark continues, “I’m excited to see new ways of relating our work to these important, biological questions. Does the geometry of driven mechanics correspond with the active mechanics seen in organic shape development? Conversely, can biology give us inspiration in complex soft matter? Undoubtedly yes!”

Via the ELBE Visiting Faculty Program, the CSBD continuously offers funded opportunities for researchers working in the area of its mission. During their stay, visiting faculty closely interacts with research groups at the CSBD, as well as with labs at the MPI-CBG, and the Max-Planck-Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS).