Prof. Benjamin Friedrich: Dynamics in cells and tissues - Synchronization in cilia carpets (Inaugural lecture)

Portrait Benjamin Friedrich
© cfaed, Katharina Knaut

"Dynamics in cells and tissues: Synchronization in cilia carpets"
Inaugural lecture by Prof. Benjamin Friedrich at the Physics Colloquium

By definition, living matter is far from thermal equilibrium. It can exhibit rich dynamics, including self-organized pattern formation, but also stochastic dynamics due to small-number fluctuations, all of which have physiological relevance. We are only at the beginning to find theoretical description of these complex systems, which requires suitable coarse-graining and often multi-scale modeling. After a brief overview of different biological model systems investigated in our group, Benjamin Friedrich will illustrate his research method by highlighting one example of recent work on self-organized synchronization in cilia carpets. Cilia are slender cell appendages powered by molecular motors that can beat like a whip to pump fluids, which propel not only sperm cells and swimming alga, but are also found on epithelial tissues in our airways. There, dense carpets of cilia beat in a coordinated fashion in the form of traveling waves, e.g., to remove pathogens. To study collective dynamics in these systems, his lab developed a multi-scale modeling approach by extending classical Lagrangian mechanics of dissipative systems to active systems. Applying this framework to cilia carpets allows them derive an effective equation of motion and thus to apply the toolbox of nonlinear dynamics to characterize the emergence of traveling waves and their robustness to perturbations. The Friedrich lab finds local but not global synchronization, which provides an intriguing link to Statistical Physics and order in two-dimensional spin systems. Last but not least, local but not global synchronization is also observed experimentally, e.g., in transparent zebrafish as we show in a recent theory-experiment collaboration.

Short bio
Benjamin Friedrich studied mathematics in Leipzig and Cambridge, before he pursued a PhD in Theoretical Biological Physics at the MPI PKS with Frank Jülicher, completed 2009. Afterwards, he was a Koshland post-doctoral fellow with Samuel Safran at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, working on cellular mechanosensing and pattern formation in muscle cells. He returned to the MPI PKS as PKS distinguished fellow, working on problems in biological hydrodynamics and tissue dynamics. In 2016, he became group leader in the Biological Systems path of cfaed. Since 2021, Benjamin Friedrich is a Heisenberg professor (tenure-track) at the Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life (PoL) at TU Dresden.

The Physics Colloquium of the Faculty of Physics takes place weekly during the lecture periods of the respective semester. It offers a broad spectrum of talks of renowned experts from all fields of physics. In addition, inaugural lectures of new colleagues, presentation of habilitation projects and other festive events of the Faculty of Physics take place in the Physics Colloquium. For more information, visit the Physics Colloquium website.