Falko Schmidt will defend his PhD Thesis in Physics on 15 January 2021

Falko Schmidt will defend his PhD Thesis in Physics on Friday, 15 January 2021.
The disputation will take place at 9 a.m., in PJ salen, Fysikgården.
Falko Schmidt’s opponent, Peer Fischer, will give an introductory presentation with title “Microswimmers and motile active matter”.

Link: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/66807

From Falko Schmidt’s PhD Thesis.
Title: Active Matter in a Critical State: From passive building blocks to active molecules, engines and droplets

The motion of microscopic objects is strongly affected by their surrounding environment. In quiescent liquids, motion is reduced to random fluctuations known as Brownian motion. Nevertheless, microorganisms have been able to develop mechanisms to generate active motion. This has inspired researchers to understand and artificially replicate active motion. Now, the field of active matter has developed into a multi-disciplinary field, with researchers developing artificial microswimmers, producing miniaturized versions of heat engines and showing that individual colloids self-assemble into larger microstructures. This thesis taps into the development of artificial microscopic and nanoscopic systems and demonstrates that passive building blocks such as colloids are transformed into active molecules, engines and active droplets that display a rich set of motions. This is achieved by combining optical manipulation with a phase-separating environment consisting of a critical binary mixture. I first show how simple absorbing particles are transformed into fast rotating microengines using optical tweezers, and how this principle can be scaled down to nanoscopic particles. Transitioning then from single particles to self-assembled modular swimmers, such colloidal molecules exhibit diverse behaviour such as propulsion, orbital rotation and spinning, and whose formation process I can control with periodic illumination. To characterize the molecules dynamics better, I introduce a machine-learning algorithm to determine the anomalous exponent of trajectories and to identify changes in a trajectory’s behaviour. Towards understanding the behaviour of larger microstructures, I then investigate the interaction of colloidal molecules with their phase-separating environment and observe a two-fold coupling between the induced liquid droplets and their immersed colloids. With the help of simulations I gain a better physical picture and can further analyse the molecules’ and droplets’ emergence and growth dynamics. At last, I show that fluctuation-induced forces can solve current limitations in microfabrication due to stiction, enabling a further development of the field towards smaller and more stable nanostructures required for nowadays adaptive functional materials. The insights gained from this research mark the path towards a new generation of design principles, e.g., for the construction of flexible micromotors, tunable micromembranes and drug delivery in health care applications.

Extracting quantitative biological information from brightfield cell images using deep learning on ArXiv

Virtually-stained generated image for lipid-droplet.
Extracting quantitative biological information from brightfield cell images using deep learning
Saga Helgadottir, Benjamin Midtvedt, Jesús Pineda, Alan Sabirsh, Caroline B. Adiels, Stefano Romeo, Daniel Midtvedt, Giovanni Volpe
arXiv: 2012.12986

Quantitative analysis of cell structures is essential for biomedical and pharmaceutical research. The standard imaging approach relies on fluorescence microscopy, where cell structures of interest are labeled by chemical staining techniques. However, these techniques are often invasive and sometimes even toxic to the cells, in addition to being time-consuming, labor-intensive, and expensive. Here, we introduce an alternative deep-learning-powered approach based on the analysis of brightfield images by a conditional generative adversarial neural network (cGAN). We show that this approach can extract information from the brightfield images to generate virtually-stained images, which can be used in subsequent downstream quantitative analyses of cell structures. Specifically, we train a cGAN to virtually stain lipid droplets, cytoplasm, and nuclei using brightfield images of human stem-cell-derived fat cells (adipocytes), which are of particular interest for nanomedicine and vaccine development. Subsequently, we use these virtually-stained images to extract quantitative measures about these cell structures. Generating virtually-stained fluorescence images is less invasive, less expensive, and more reproducible than standard chemical staining; furthermore, it frees up the fluorescence microscopy channels for other analytical probes, thus increasing the amount of information that can be extracted from each cell.

Microscopic Metavehicles Powered and Steered by Embedded Optical Metasurfaces on ArXiv

Microscopic Metavehicles Powered and Steered by Embedded Optical Metasurfaces
Daniel Andrén, Denis G. Baranov, Steven Jones, Giovanni Volpe, Ruggero Verre, Mikael Käll
arXiv: 2012.10205

Nanostructured dielectric metasurfaces offer unprecedented opportunities to manipulate light by imprinting an arbitrary phase-gradient on an impinging wavefront. This has resulted in the realization of a range of flat analogs to classical optical components like lenses, waveplates and axicons. However, the change in linear and angular optical momentum associated with phase manipulation also results in previously unexploited forces acting on the metasurface itself. Here, we show that these optomechanical effects can be utilized to construct optical metavehicles – microscopic particles that can travel long distances under low-power plane-wave illumination while being steered through the polarization of the incident light. We demonstrate movement in complex patterns, self-correcting motion, and an application as transport vehicles for microscopic cargo, including unicellular organisms. The abundance of possible optical metasurfaces attests to the prospect of developing a wide variety of metavehicles with specialized functional behavior.

Giovanni Volpe awarded new ERC Consolidator Grant

ERC logo.
Giovanni Volpe has been awarded a new European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant on Wednesday, December 9th 2020.

The title of his project is “Microscopic Active Particles with Embodied Intelligence”.

Active particles and active matter research tries to understand and replicate the characteristics of living microorganisms in artificial systems. Over billions of years of evolution, living organisms have developed complex strategies to survive and thrive. The artificial active particles are still incapable of autonomous information processing.

Giovanni Volpe’s project aims to address three main challenges in the current research on active matter:

  • Make active particles capable of autonomous information processing.
  • Optimize the behavioral strategies of individual active particles.
  • Optimize the interactions between active particles.

Giovanni Volpe awarded new ERC Consolidator Grant
Official press release (ERC): CoG Recipients 2020
14 forskare verksamma i Sverige får ERC Consolidator grant

Digital Christmas Lunch 2020, Soft Matter Lab and Biological Physics Lab

A screenshot from the Soft Matter Lab and Biological Physics Lab’s Digital Christmas Lunch 2020.
On November 25, the members of the Soft Matter Lab and of the Biological Physics Lab joined for the Digital Christmas Lunch 2020.

This activity has been held in substitution of the traditional Physics Department Christmas Lunch, which this year cannot take place in the usual format because of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.

After the usual group meeting, which is held online on Zoom since the beginning of March 2020, the two groups shared a common lunch, in respect of the current recommendations of the Folkhälsomyndigheten, which do not allow public gatherings with more than 8 people.

Several group members joined from their homes. The group members involved in experimental work, who, in any case, had to be present in the respective labs, joined the group lunch from various rooms in Soliden, to comply with the current rules of social distancing.


Lecture by G. Volpe: Graph Theory Concepts, 25 November 2020

On 25 November 2020, Giovanni Volpe gave an online lecture on Graph Theory Concepts, in the scope of Karolinska Institute graduate course 3064: Imaging in Neuroscience: With a focus on structural MRI methods

The lecture is published online on youtube.

Imaging in Neuroscience: Graph Theory Concepts

Project “Active matter goes smart” featured on KAW Foundation website

Giovanni Volpe, photo of Johan Wingborg.
Giovanni Volpe’s new project “Active matter goes smart” has been featured on the website of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg (KAW) Foundation.

The feature article explains the project and its main aim of creating smart particles that react to their environment to a general audience.

The article is available both in English and in Swedish.

Skapar smarta partiklar med naturen som förebild (Swedish)
Creating smart particles modeled on nature (English)

Photos of Johan Wingborg, taken from Creating smart particles modeled on nature

Improving epidemic testing and containment strategies using machine learning on ArXiv

Comparison of different evolution regimes of disease spreading: free evolution (bottom left half) vs network strategy (top right half).
Improving epidemic testing and containment strategies using machine learning
Laura Natali, Saga Helgadottir, Onofrio M. Maragò, Giovanni Volpe
arXiv: 2011.11717

Containment of epidemic outbreaks entails great societal and economic costs. Cost-effective containment strategies rely on efficiently identifying infected individuals, making the best possible use of the available testing resources. Therefore, quickly identifying the optimal testing strategy is of critical importance. Here, we demonstrate that machine learning can be used to identify which individuals are most beneficial to test, automatically and dynamically adapting the testing strategy to the characteristics of the disease outbreak. Specifically, we simulate an outbreak using the archetypal susceptible-infectious-recovered (SIR) model and we use data about the first confirmed cases to train a neural network that learns to make predictions about the rest of the population. Using these prediction, we manage to contain the outbreak more effectively and more quickly than with standard approaches. Furthermore, we demonstrate how this method can be used also when there is a possibility of reinfection (SIRS model) to efficiently eradicate an endemic disease.

Lucero nominated for “Best HealthTech Startup” in Sweden

The spinoff Lucero emerged a year ago as a joint effort between the Soft Matter Lab, the Biological Physics Group and the Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship. The idea of providing a non-invasive micromanipulation platform recently received initial support from the European Research Council (Proof of Concept) and Chalmers Ventures. Lucero has now been nominated for “Best HealthTech Startup” in the Swedish national final of the prestigious Nordic Startup Awards. National winners are partially determined by public vote and will go on to compete against the winners from Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Denmark in the Nordic Final.

The public voting period is now open and the winner of each category will be announced on November 26th.

To vote, click here.

“The first prototype is on its way and we hope to start the initial tests with biological samples pretty soon, all thanks to the support from Chalmers Ventures and Prof. Giovanni Volpe.” Alejandro Diaz, co-founder of Lucero.

Lucero is joined by four other up-and-coming Swedish startups in the HealthTech category, including Spermosens, tendo, Flow Neuroscience, and Deversify.

Other categories include: Startup of the Year, Best Newcomer, Founder of the Year, Investor of the Year, Best Co-working Space, Best Accelerator/Incubator Program, Ecosystem Hero of the Year, Best Virtual Teamwork Solution, People’s Choice, and Best Climate Impact Startup.

The Nordic Startup Awards is part of the Global Startup Awards, which is a large startup competition that aims to recognize and connect entrepreneurs, investors, accelerator/incubator programs, and government initiatives from all around the world.

Follow Lucero’s updates on Lucerobio.com/, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/lucero/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lucero_bio/
Lucerobio: https://www.lucerobio.com/