CCB Seminar: Dr. Madhav Mani

Date & Time

Madhav Mani, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor of Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics
Northwestern University

Topic: Descartes’ Duck and Picasso’s Bull

Abstract: The Duck of Vaucanson served to illustrate Descartes view (1662) that all animals could be reductively explained as automata – a 17th century Rube Golberg Machine. While much of the last 70 years of biological research has, successfully, worked within a paradigm of molecular reductionism, cutting edge imaging and sequencing data now presents the opportunity to pursue a more integrated study of living systems. A critical challenge for modern biology is thus to achieve a proper “coarse-grained”, low-dimensional description of living systems that captures the relative functional significance of their constituents and interactions. Juxtaposing Picasso’s subjective approach to course-graining his famous bulls (1945), the approach we pursue is a data-driven one, using a combination of physical modeling and machine learning. In this talk, I will focus on two projects that leverage cutting-edge live-imaging and single-cell sequencing data to produce data-driven insights into the phenomena of embryonic morphogenesis and cellular fate-specification dynamics. Additional vignettes will give a glimpse into the quantitative frameworks and computational algorithms that our group develops to produce rigorous and holistic analyses of modern biological data.

About the Speaker

Madhav obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Cambridge and Harvard Universities, focusing on Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. After a Ph.D., under the mentorship of L. Mahadevan and M. Brenner, Madhav’s research turned towards biology as a Simons Foundation postdoc at the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics working with B. Shraiman. As a faculty in Applied Mathematics and Molecular Physics at Northwestern University, and a Simons Foundation Investigator and a leader of the NSF-Simons Center for QBio at Northwestern, Madhav has continued to study abroad range of biological phenomena from Development and fate-specification dynamics, to cellular physiology and ecological metabolism.

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