I am an assistant professor in physics at the University of California in Merced, since 1st September, 2018. I am looking for motivated students excited to work on the physics theory and modeling of biological soft and active matter to join my group. The two postdoc positions we offered in the UC Merced Soft Matter Theory group are now filled.
Research Interests My research interests lie in soft condensed matter physics, particularly the use of continuum theories of matter and statistical physics to understand and discover new physical phenomena in biological matter occurring in cells and tissue. I am currently most fascinated by the active material properties of the cellular cytoskeleton: a complex, tensile, shape-shifting, networked jelly that helps cells stick, pull, deform and crawl. Aspects of many traditional soft matter systems like polymers, gels,liquid crystals, surfactants and electrostatics come together in cell physics. Additionally, the innards of a cell are buffeted by molecular motors that drive it away from thermal equilibrium. Cell mechanical properties can also be modulated by genetic and biochemical fluctuations. This is then a prototype of complex and adaptive soft matter with non-equilibrium mechanical properties where many ideas from physics can be potentially applied, while stimulating the creation of new physics theories (see reviews here and here just as examples of how this has happened in the recent past.)
Alongside developing new theory and models to address such phenomena, much of my work is informed by experiments and is in close collaboration with experimentalists. The goal is always to build simple models with testable predictions that also elucidate the essential scientific principles in a crisp manner. Please visit the “Research” section of this page for more details on specific projects I have worked on.
Scientific Bio: Before joining UC Merced, I was at the James Franck Institute, University of Chicago as a postdoctoral scholar in the Vaikuntanathan group. My prior postdoctoral work at the Weizmann Institute with Prof. Samuel Safran explained a link between the structural order and beating of heart muscle cells and showed theoretically how mechano-chemical processes may govern cellular development in a controlled manner. I obtained a PhD in theoretical condensed matter physics from the University of Florida in 2012 working on low temperature phases of matter.