Alexander Erlich

Applied mathematician studying how mechanics shapes and regulates living biological systems.

Alexander Erlich

Laboratoire Inter-disciplinaire de Physique, Université Grenoble Alpes

140 Rue de la Physique

38402 Saint-Martin-d’Heres

E-mail: alexander.erlich’AT’

I am interested in the application of mechanics to biology, specifically the question how mechanics shapes and regulates living biological systems. During my PhD with Prof. Alain Goriely and Prof. Derek Moulton at the University of Oxford, I worked on growth processes in biological soft materials. I focused on the question how simple local growth laws at the cell level can shape the global behaviour of the entire tissue in such a way that it is stable to mechanical perturbations. Separately, I applied similar ideas of growth and mechanics to explain the ribbing patterns in Ammonites’ seashells. This work was exposed to some mainstream press attention. I continued as a post-doc at the University of Manchester with Prof. Oliver Jensen and Dr. Igor Chernyavsky, working on solute transfer in the human placenta, i.e. how solutes like oxygen are transported from the mother to the fetus through advection, diffusion and uptake. A successful outcome of this project was to reduce the complex solute exchange units called terminal villi to a small number of geometric parameters needed to describe solute transport. I illustrate the geometric intricacies of terminal villi in this video:

Currently, I am a post-doc with Pierre Recho at the Laboratoire Inter-disciplinaire de Physique (LIPhy) at the Université Grenoble Alpes. The goal of my post-doc is focused on cell crawling on soft substrates, and specifically the effect of mechanical properties of the substrate on the cell motility.