Wolfgang Losert

Contact Information

Physical Sciences Complex, Room 1147,

Biodynamics Lab:
Energy Res. Bldg, Room 0205, 301-405-0122

Granular Lab:
Energy Res. Bldg, Room 0300, 301-405-6368

E-mail: wlosert @ umd.edu

Send Mail To:
Paint Branch Drive Bldg 223
Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742


Spring 2014

PHYS 132: Fundamentals of Physics for Biologists II

I am contributing to the first large class for the second semester of the new HHMI supported Physics for Life Scientists with course with modern laboratories. Both course and laboratories feature a shift of topics toward physics at biological scales and a shift in pedagogy to focus on conceptual understanding, sense making, and interdisciplinary transfer. Funded by HHMI (Project: NEXUS)

PHYS 299L: Quantitative Biology and Biophysics Research Experience

The main focus of the course is to develop the skills to carry out research in small groups, and to tackle an authentic research question. The course will be led by an experienced physics educator and four National Cancer Institute and UMD Cell Biology Research Scientists/Postdocs. Funded by Seed Support from the Department of Physics and Biology, CMNS and the Provost FIRE Initative

View Past Semesters

More Information

PDF of Current CV


Lab Outreach

The Losert Lab has a long tradition of participating in Maryland Day. To learn more about the demonstrations we have developed and the activities we host, check out our Maryland Day page.

Dynamics of Complex Systems

Our research is focused on emergent dynamical properties of Complex Systems at the convergence of physics, materials science, and biology.

A special focus is on applications to cancer biology. Complex systems, i.e. systems with many dynamically interacting units, often display emergent behavior that cannot be anticipated from studies of individual units. Some examples of generic characteristics that are unique to complex systems are spiral patterns, dynamical phase transitions, and spatio-temporal chaos. Our research is focused on complex systems in materials science and biology.

Granular Dynamics: In applications to materials science, we investigate the motion of granular materials, such as sand, by developing an innovative technique to imaging the interior of a granular material, and applying network theory approaches in novel ways. Our goal is to characterize how interactions between particles in granular flows can lead to strikingly robust collective behavior such as memory of prior excitation, and segregation of particles by size. We developed a novel 3D laser scanning tomography approach that allows for direct imaging of the inside of granular flows. This is allowing us to directly observe individual and collective behavior of particles in flows. Our current analysis in collaboration with the Girvan group (UMD) focuses is on the use of network theory to assess the breaking and reforming of contact networks in granular flows. Funded by DTRA.

Biodynamics: At the convergence with biology, my group is motivated both by the desire to gain fundamental insights into the behavior of living systems and by the drive to contribute to the pressing challenges associated with the explosion of quantitative information in medical research. Our analysis of shape dynamics of migrating cells has led us to discover mechanical waves as a ubiquitous underlying motor in many fast-migrating cells. Our recent work indicates that the motor for fast migrating cells is based on reaction-diffusion waves start at the leading edge and propagate down alternating sides of the cell. Our goal is to elucidate how surface chemistry and topography affects this migratory machinery, and how internal waves may be harnessed to control cell behavior. To control surface topography we use nanofabrication approaches pioneered by our collaborator J. Fourkas (Chemistry). We also develop new tools to control the arrangement and dynamics of cell groups via holographic laser tweezers (in collaboration with SK Gupta, UMD). Funded by NIGMS, NSF and NIST.

Cancer Dynamics: In a project funded by a DOD Era of Hope Scholar Award to Dr Stuart Martin, we investigate the mechanical properties of models of circulating tumor cells. We also apply Complex Systems approaches to investigate cancer related biological processes as part of a Cancer Technology interaction between the University of Maryland and the National Cancer Institute that was formalized in 2010. Work supported by DOD and NIH.