Our group focuses on understanding interactions between two or more cells, and between cells and their environment. These are important topics because they address processes that are foundational to multicellular life (including ourselves and you, Dear Reader). We want especially to know how physics shapes these biological interactions and how physical tools and modes of thought can help us understand them better.

Motivated postdocs, graduate, undergraduate students will have the opportunity to contribute to multiple strands of fast-moving research within this theme. Current topics include the effects of adhesion in creating heterogeneities on cell membranes and the interactions between bacterial cells asbiofilms are formed, but new topics can arise at any time! Our toolkit includes a variety of techniques for microscope imaging, micromanipulation, and computational analysis, and is likewise constantly expanding.

For more information on the group’s research and/or opportunities in the group, please email Vernita or come find us in person on the 14th floor of RLM.

Open Postdoc Position!


Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Austin (2010-present)

Postdoc, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (2006-2010)

Postdoc, University of Edinburgh (2003-2006)


Ph.D. in Physics Harvard University (2003)

B.Sc. in Physics and Mathematics Vanderbilt University (1997)

Awards and Honors

Mitchell Award (2015) to Nalin Ratnayeke for outstanding undergraduate research done under my supervision
Hyer Research Award (2013) from the Texas Section of the American Physical Society

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow (2008-2010)

Magna Cum Laude & Honors in Physics, Vanderbilt University(1997)


Complete Publication List

UT scientists might have found key to stopping hospital infections

Swirling Bacteria Linked to the Physics of Phase Transitions

Lung bacteria’s sense of touch tells them when to turn nasty

APS Leads in Capitol Hill Meetings with New Congress

Laser trapping to show the effects of bacterial arrangement on biofilm infection

A Physical Approach to Biology

‘Laser Trapping’? Technique Could Lead To Better Management of Bacterial Infections in CF Patients