Research

NEW (04/10/2018): my Ph.D. work on how the pattern of crevices present on the skin of African bush elephants forms is now online! Check it out here!

My current research focuses mainly on the elasticity and mechanics of thin structures, with special emphasis on the applications of these topics to the problem of pattern formation in biological systems.

Concretely, I am interested in understanding:

  • how mechanical instabilities (such as buckling, wrinkling, folding, creasing and cracking) develop in elastic bodies,
  • how to relate the characteristics of the post-instability deformation with the physical properties of the system,
  • how periodic, quasi-periodic and irregular patterns can be generated through mechanical instabilities, and
  • how these instabilities are “recruited” by Nature to help in the morphogenesis of living organisms.

fig_sphere_contraction
When a thin, elastic and spherical layer is pulled inwards by a receding substrate, it develops some very interesting wrinkling patterns, as shown theoretically, numerically and experimentally in here. During my Ph.D., I worked on a lattice model to simulate the elastic response of physical shells when subject to perturbations like the one mentioned above (the images shown are some of the results that I got).


I strive to combine theory, simulations and experiments to attain these goals: during my Ph.D., I spent my time (1) filling sheets of sketch paper with formulas, (2) coding them into computer simulations, and (3) “playing” with clays, gels and paints to try to experimentally validate my theoretical and numerical results.


fig_cracking
Columnar joints (left) and mud cracks (middle) are two ways in which a material may be patterned using mechanical fracture. The bark of trees (right) is a rare example of a living system whose morphology is patterned via the same mechanism. During my Ph.D., I studied the network of crevices visible on the skin of African elephants, and concluded that these too are formed through cracking (more on that soon).


Additionally, I have worked on a number of other topics throughout the years, and I am still interested in those too.

The skin of African bush elephants

A detailed description of this project will be added soon.