Karin John

Biophysics and Physics of Soft Active Matter

Theory and Mechanistic Modeling

Research Associate at the CNRS
Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire de Physique
Grenoble - France

Biological materials are not inert static equilibrium scaffolds to perform a given biological function. Instead they are dynamic and adaptive in response to their ever changing environment. Living matter is dissipative, i.e. the metabolism injects continuously biochemical energy into the system keeping it far from thermodynamic equilibrium. The dissipative nature of biological materials leads to a constant renewal and restructuring, which is a unique feature compared to passive structures which are close to or at thermodynamic equilibrium. It is not only the dissipative or active behavior which renders biomaterials unique, but also the fact their properties have been subject to evolutionary processes over millions of years to select an optimal set of properties w.r.t. to metabolic costs, required chemical or mechanical properties, stability, etc.

I am interested in the theoretical description of the dynamics, collective phenomena and multiscale properties of biological and active soft materials. Specifically I study the interplay between passive material properties and active (biological) processes in various systems, whereby the common denominator is the following question: How do passive and active microscopic material properties manifest itself on the macroscale and give rise to spatio-temporal structures and symmetry-breaking phenomena.

My approaches range from minimal generalized models to models for specific biological systems in tight connection with the cell biological experimental community.