Research Groups

Portrait Frank Jülicher

Frank Jülicher

Dynamic processes in cells and tissues

Previous and Current Research

The main focus of our research is the theoretical study of active processes in biological systems on the scale of the cell and in tissues. An important example is the spatial organization of the cell and phase separation in the cell cytoplasm. On the tissue scale, we are interested in collective organization of many cells and the role of morphogens. During development, cells communicate with the help of signaling systems. Morphogens build graded concentration profiles, which provide positional information. We study the interplay of signaling and growth in order to discuss how complex patterns form during development. The biophysics of cells plays an important role in the pattering of tissues. In a broader context, the cytoskeleton and tissues represent active materials. Active materials are able to generate spontaneous motion and forces. They can exhibit behaviors that differ strikingly from ordinary passive systems such as the occurrence of oscillatory behaviors and the generation of patterns in space and time. In addition to the general properties of active materials in cells and tissues, we study specific examples of dynamic phenomena in specialized cellular structures. For example, cilia and flagella generate a beating motion of propagating bending waves of long elastic structures, which allow sperm to swim in a viscous environment.

Future Projects and Goals

Future lines of research include:

  • We study the role of liquid-liquid phase separation for the spatial organization of cells.
  • We develop theoretical approaches to study the dynamics of cell polarity in tissues.
  • We study the growth of developing tissues and the implications of growth for morphogen signaling.
  • We develop theoretical descriptions of the cell cortex to account for active behaviors which are observed in particular during cell division.
  • We study the dynamics of vertebrate segmentation by coupled genetic oscillators.
Methodological and Technical Expertise
  • Theory of active matter
  • Hydrodynamics, Continuum theories, discrete models
  • Stochastic processes
  • Numerical methods, simulation
Selected Publications

S. Werner, T. Stückemann, M. Beirán Amigo, J. C. Rink, F. Jülicher and B. M. Friedrich
Scaling and Regeneration of Self-Organized Patterns
Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 138101 (2015)

M. Merkel, A. Sagner, F. S. Gruber, R. Etournay, C. Blasse, E. Myers, S. Eaton and F. Jülicher
The Balance of Prickle/Spiny-Legs Isoforms Controls the Amount of Coupling between Core and Fat PCP Systems
Current Biology 24, 2111 (2014)

D. Zwicker, M. Decker, S. Jaensch, A. A. Hyman and F. Jülicher
Centrosomes are autocatalytic droplets of pericentriolar material organized by centrioles
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 111, E2636 (2014)

C. F. Lee, C. P. Brangwynne, J. Gharakhani, A. A. Hyman and F. Jülicher
Spatial Organization of the Cell Cytoplasm by Position-Dependent Phase Separation
Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 088101 (2013)

S. Fürthauer, M. Strempel, S. W. Grill and F. Jülicher
Active Chiral Processes in Thin Films
Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 048103 (2013)


since 2002
Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems

CNRS researcher at Institute Curie, Paris

Postdoctoral work at ESPCI, Paris, and Institute Curie, Paris

Postdoctoral work at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

PhD, University of Cologne


Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems
Nöthnitzer Straße 38
01187 Dresden