Lucia Baldauf

Lucia has a broad interest in how mechanics shape biological assembly and behaviour across scales. She aims to combine bottom-up and top-down approaches to shed light on diverse biological phenomena ranging from cell division and phagocytosis to tissue integrity.

She was first introduced to the fascinating world of soft matter during her BSc and MSc studies in Engieering Physics at TU Ilmenau (Germany). During extended stays as an undergraduate researcher at the University of Edinburgh (MacPhee lab) and University of Amsterdam (Schall lab) she studied how proteins and colloids assemble at interfaces and in confinement. Her work revealed that step-wise assembly of anisotropic colloidal particles can be used to produce materials with otherwise inaccessible crystal structures and properties.

Moving from soft matter to biophysics, Lucia completed her PhD in the lab of Gijsje Koenderink’s at TU Delft and AMOLF (The Netherlands) at the end of 2022. Her work as part of the Dutch ‘Building A Synthetic Cell’ consortium centered around constructing a machinery to divide synthetic cells. She established an experimental model system to assemble biomimetic actin cortices in cell-sized lipid vesicles. Using this reductionist approach, she demonstrated that simple actin cortices can perform unexpectedly complex cellular functions such as driving cellular protrusions, sensing membrane curvature, and mechanically stiffening the cell surface. Lucia’s PhD work also shed light on the role of self-assembly in the motility of molecular motors, charge-based assembly of miminal actin cortices, and growth of synthetic cell membranes via DNA-mediated vesicle fusion.

As a postdoctoral fellow in the Charras lab, Lucia investigates the molecular mechanisms that govern the integrity of living tissues under mechanical stress. Her work focuses on bridging the vastly different length- and force-scales involved in tissue integrity and failure, from molecules to tissues.