David Zwicker studied physics at the Technical University in Dresden and did his Ph.D. under the supervision of Frank Jülicher at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden, where he focused on active droplet models. He then joined Michael Brenner’s group at Harvard University as a postdoc to work on the information theory and fluid dynamics of olfaction. Since 2017, he leads the independent research group “Theory of Biological Fluids” at the MPI for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen, Germany.

Education and positions held

  • 2014 – 2017
    • Harvard University
  • 2009 – 2013
    • Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, Dresden
  • 2009
    • AMOLF Amsterdam

Research Summary

In contrast to most man-made machines, biological organisms are typically built from soft and often fluid-like material. How can such liquid matter be controlled in space and time to fulfill precise functions? To uncover the physical principles for such organization, we analyze theoretical models of biological processes using tools from statistical physics, dynamical system theory, fluid dynamics, and information theory. In particular, we study how phase separation is used to organize the liquid interior of cells and how the airflow during inhalation affects the transport of airborne odorants and thus the sense of smell.

Key publications

  • K. A. Rosowski, T. Sai, E. Vidal-Henriquez, D. Zwicker, R. W. Style, E. R. Dufresne, “”Elastic ripening and inhibition of liquid-liquid phase separation””, Nature Physics 16, 422–425 (2020)
  • D. Zwicker, R. Ostilla-Mónico, D. E. Lieberman, and M. P. Brenner, “”Physical and geometric constraints shape the labyrinth-like nasal cavity””, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 115, 2936 (2018)
    D. Zwicker*, R. Seyboldt*, C. A. Weber, A. A. Hyman, and F. Jülicher, “”Growth and Division of Active Droplets Provides a Model for Protocells””, Nature Physics 13, 408–413 (2017)
  • D. Zwicker, A. Murugan, and M. P. Brenner, “”Receptor arrays optimized for natural odor statistics””, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 113, 5570 (2016)
  • 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, E2636–45 (2014)