We are a research group in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at Monash University. We use modeling and computation to study complex behaviour that emerges from micromechanical interactions of soft materials such a polymer molecules, protein filaments or bilayer membranes with a fluid environment. Living cells are marvellous micromachines. We try to understand the ability of cells to exploit fluid forces and motion to carry out their functions. We are interested in single cells such as bacteria, white-blood cells or sperm that manipulate fluid inside or outside to move on their own. Large cell populations behave like self-propelled fluids and work cooperatively, like infectious bacteria spreading on tissue surfaces, or skin cells sealing a wound, or stem cells differentiating and developing into tissues and organs. The dream is that one day we may be able to control infections by developing strategies to disrupt their mechanics, or be able build soft artificial microbots that can swim or crawl on their own. Non-living fluids can be complex and interesting too. We study dramatic changes in behaviour in when tiny amounts of flexible polymers are dissolved in simple fluids like water. Polymer additives lend a certain springiness to the solution. This elasticity is useful in a wide variety of applications such as reducing turbulence, ink-jet printing, agricultural spraying, etc.
Ashwin Nandagiri and Avinash Gaikwad’s (U. Muenster) paper on measurements of flagellar energetics in sperm has been published in eLife (https://elifesciences.org/articles/62524). This was the results of a collaboration with Sameer Jadhav (IIT Bombay), Moira O’Bryan (U. Melbourne), and Reza Nosrati and Julio Soria (Monash University).