Developmental zoology

How do cells in multicellular organisms (self-)organize to form a complex body plan with an amazing functional repertoire, including reproduction, the repair after injuries, and navigation to find food and mating partners ? We combine biological experiments in a tight feedback loop with physics-inspired theory to understand principles of communication and information processing from stem cells to neurons.

We use nematode and planarian worms as minimal model systems. Nematodes possess a well-documented rigid body layout, which allows for high experimental reproducibility. Planarians are known for their incredible regeneration abilities and scalability of their bodies. These features allow us to address a wide range of questions such as:

  • How do cells trade-off limited resources and how does this change during the lifetime of an organism?
  • How do microscopic stem cells find their way over centimeter distances to the wound site during regeneration and how do the cells orchestrate their division, differentiation and migration behavior?
  • How do organisms optimize their strategies to navigate complex landscapes despite physical constraints as well as limited information about the environment?
  • How do brains store and process information and how can memory be inherited across generations?