Levich Institute Seminar – Tuesday, 02/28/2023

Tuesday, 02/28/2023
2:00 PM
Steinman Hall #312 

Professor Karen Kasza
Columbia University, Mechanical Engineering Department

Stress Management: Cell Packings and Tissue Flows in Developing Embryos

Simultaneous Zoom Link [Please note passcode is required: blevich]



During embryonic development, groups of cells reorganize into functional tissues with complex form and structure. Tissue reorganization can be rapid and dramatic, often occurring through striking embryo-scale flows that are mediated by the coordinated actions of hundreds or thousands of cells. In Drosophila, cell rearrangements in the embryonic epithelium rapidly narrow and elongate the tissue, producing a tissue flow that doubles the length of the body axis in just 30 minutes. These types of tissue movements can be driven by internal forces generated by the cells themselves or by external forces. While much is known about the molecules involved in these cell and tissue movements, it is not yet clear how these molecules work together to coordinate cell behaviors, give rise to emergent tissue mechanics, and generate coherent flows at the embryo scale. To gain mechanistic insight into this problem, my lab combines genetic and biophysical approaches with emerging optogenetic technologies for manipulating molecular and mechanical activities inside cells with high precision. I will discuss some of our recent findings on how cellular properties and mechanical forces are regulated in the Drosophila embryo to allow (or prevent) rapid cell rearrangements and tissue flows during specific events in embryonic development.  
Karen received a B.A. in Physics from the University of Chicago, a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard University, and did her postdoctoral research at the Sloan Kettering Institute. Since 2016, she has been a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University, where she is currently an associate professor. Karen is the recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship in Physics, 2022; Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering, 2018; NSF CAREER Award, 2018; Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professorship, 2016; Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface, 2014.
Karen Kasza’s research combines approaches from biology, engineering, and physics to explore how cells collectively organize into functional tissues.  Recently, her group has focused on understanding the molecular and physical origins of solid-fluid mechanical behavior in epithelial tissues.  Her group also develops and uses optogenetic tools to manipulate cell and tissue mechanical behavior in order to better understand and control how mechanical forces influence living systems.
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