Active Matter Seminar

During the 2021-22 academic year, the CMSA will be hosting a seminar on Active Matter, organized by Farzan Vafa and David Nelson. This seminar will take place bi-weekly on Thursdays at 1:00pm – 2:30pm (Boston time). The meetings will take place virtually on Zoom. To learn how to attend, please fill out this form, or contact Farzan Vafa (

The schedule below will be updated as talks are confirmed.

9/2/2021Andreas Bausch, Technical University of MunichTitle: Eppur si muovono: rotations in active matter

Abstract: Living matter relies on the self organization of its components into higher order structures, on the molecular as well as on the cellular, organ or even organism scale. Collective motion due to active transport processes has been shown to be a promising route for attributing fascinating order formation processes on these different length scales. Here I will present recent results on structure formation on actively transported actin filaments on lipid membranes and vesicles, as well as the cell migration induced structure formation in the developmental phase of mammary gland organoids. For both systems spherical structures with persistent collective rotations are observed.
9/23/2021Krishna Shrinivas, HarvardTitle: The many phases of a cell

Abstract: I will begin by introducing an emerging paradigm of cellular organization – the dynamic compartmentalization of biochemical pathways and molecules by phase separation into distinct and multi-phase condensates. Motivated by this, I will discuss two largely orthogonal problems, united by the theme of phase separation in multi-component and chemically active fluid mixtures.

1. I will propose a theoretical model based on Random-Matrix Theory, validated by phase-field simulations, to characterizes the rich emergent dynamics, compositions, and steady-state properties that underlie multi-phase coexistence in fluid mixtures with many randomly interacting components.

2. Motivated by puzzles in gene-regulation and nuclear organization, I will propose a role for how liquid-like nuclear condensates can be organized and regulated by the active process of RNA synthesis (transcription) and RNA-protein coacervation. Here, I will describe theory and simulations based on a Landau formalism and recent experimental results from collaborators.
9/30/2021Daniel Needleman, HarvardTitle: Cytoskeletal Energetics and Energy Metabolism

Abstract: Life is a nonequilibrium phenomenon. Metabolism provides a continuous flux of energy that dictates the form and function of many subcellular structures. These subcellular structures are active materials, composed of molecules which use chemical energy to perform mechanical work and locally violate detailed balance. One of the most dramatic examples of such a self-organizing structure is the spindle, the cytoskeletal based assembly which segregates chromosomes during cell division. Despite its central role, very little is known about the nonequilibrium thermodynamics of active subcellular matter, such as the spindle. In this talk, I will describe ongoing work from my lab aimed at understanding the flows of energy which drive the nonequilibrium behaviors of the cytoskeleton in vitro and in vivo.

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