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Research Fellows Directory

Alain Goriely

Professor Alain Goriely

Research Fellow


University of Oxford

Research summary

Growth is a fascinating dynamical process that has challenged our understanding of biological systems for centuries. Whether it is cell division, growth of plants, or cancer spreading, there is something truly mesmerising about the creation and development of structures in nature. Surprisingly, very little is actually known about the mathematics of these processes and the goal of my research is to develop a mathematical formulation of growth by combining mechanics, physics, and many different fields of mathematics and biology.

The coupling between growth and physical forces is also particularly important to understand the regular function and pathological disorders in many physiological systems. Forces can induce growth but differential growth itself can create forces when parts of the body grow faster than others. Understanding how these forces are generated and coupled with the body response is particularly important to the study of their regular function and therefore crucial for the prevention of many diseases such as the cancer and the formation of arterial aneurysms.

The goal of our research is to develop mathematical tools to understand and model a variety of problems related to growth including neurite growth, microbial growth and invasion, the development of aneurysms, the spread of solid tumours, and the regular and abnormal functions of organs such as arteries, the heart, the oesophagus, and the trachea. My research in developing understanding of the intimate coupling between the biology of growth processes, and mechanics, will help us better predict the response of many biological and physiological systems, and guide scientists in their experimental and medical studies. As an example of particular beauty, we have developed recently new mathematical models to understand morphological patterns in seashells (ribs, spikes, ornamentation) by coupling the growth mechanics of the soft-mantle with the evolution of the hard shell by deposition.

Grants awarded

Morpho-elasticity: The mathematics and mechanics of biological growth.

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Feb 2010 - Jan 2016

Value: £90,000