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PICS Colloquium: “Micro-organism Locomotion in Viscoelastic Fluids”

November 3, 2023 at 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Many microorganisms and cells function in complex (non-Newtonian) fluids, which are mixtures of different materials that exhibit both viscous and elastic stresses. For example, mammalian sperm swim through cervical mucus on their journey through the female reproductive tract, and they must penetrate the viscoelastic gel outside the ovum to fertilize. In micro-scale swimming the dynamics emerge from the coupled interactions between the complex rheology of the surrounding media and the passive and active body dynamics of the swimmer.  We use computational and analytical models of swimmers in viscoelastic fluids to investigate and provide mechanistic explanations for emergent swimming behaviors. I will discuss a few examples that highlight the role of fluid elasticity in micro-organism locomotion.

Becca Thomases

Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Smith College

Becca Thomases is a mathematician who applies data driven analytical methods and computational tools to study partial differential equations modeling problems in life sciences and engineering.  Recently Thomases has been looking at how micro-organisms, such as sperm and other flagellated organisms, move in mucus and other sticky, gooey environments.

Before arriving at Smith, Thomases was on the faculty in the Mathematics Department at the University of California, Davis. Thomases served as the Vice Chair for Graduate Matters in the Mathematics Department and has supervised several PhD students.

Thomases has led initiatives to increase active learning in mathematics classrooms and has created a Teaching Assistant training curriculum that addresses topics such as: understanding the role of diversity in classrooms, and developing concrete strategies for building inclusive classrooms. An Applied Mathematician, Thomases is excited to bring interdisciplinary research projects in applied mathematics to the students at Smith College.


November 3, 2023
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
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Penn Institute for Computational Science (PICS)
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PICS Conference Room 534 – A Wing , 5th Floor
3401 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States
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