Matthias Merkel (CPT)

Self-organization and collective effects in living systems

His background

February 2019 - present | CENTURI group leader

2015 - 2018 | Postdoctoral fellow, Syracuse University (USA)

2010 - 2015 | Ph.D. in physics and Postdoctoral fellow, Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, and Technical University of Dresden (Dresden, Germany)

2003 - 2009 | Diploma in physics, Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (Dresden, Germany)


Luminy campus, Marseille (France)

About his research

Self-organized deformation of biological tissues

During animal development and regeneration, tissues and organs grow and deform in a self-organized manner. We want to focus on oriented deformation processes, for which many examples exist throughout development. How can self-organized, oriented tissue deformation be robust? This is far from obvious, because many existing physical theories predict instabilities of such oriented actively deforming materials. We want to understand how the occurrence of such instabilities can be prevented (or even harnessed) during developmental processes and establish quantitative criteria for that.

Collaborations exist with the group of Thomas Lecuit on epithelial flows and invaginations during Drosophila embryogenesis and with the group of Pierre-Francois Lenne on gastruloid deformation.


Mechanical properties of disordered systems

How do large-scale properties of disordered systems arise from the complex interplay of their microscopic constituents? This question is important to understand a large class of materials both living and non-living. In a recent publication we have already shown that one can make surprisingly general analytical predictions about the elastic macroscopic properties of the broad class of athermal, under-constrained materials. This is relevant to understand systems as diverse as semiflexible polymer networks like collagen and cell-based models for biological tissue. We want to extend these ideas in several directions, e.g to over-constrained materials, to include finite temperatures, and to include reversible cross-linkers. This will allow us to more accurately predict the macroscopic properties of many disordered materials and directly link them to their microscopic structure.

Team members

Open position

  • Open position 1: Stability of deforming multicellular systems

I have a three-year, ANR-funded postdoc opening, available from December 2022/January 2023 on, to work on the stability of deforming multicellular systems, using a combination of both cell-based models (e.g. 3D vertex model) and analytical approaches (e.g. continuum descriptions).  The successful candidate will work on theoretical questions while at the same time closely collaborating with experimental data from the groups of Pierre-François Lenne and Thomas Lecuit at the Institut de Biologie du Développement de Marseille.


  • Open position 2: Interplay of tissue flow and curvature

I have a two-year, CENTURI-funded postdoc opening, available immediately, to study the interactions of tissue flows with curvature in the fruit fly embryo, in a collaboration with the developmental biology team of Thomas Lecuit.  A combination of analytical approaches, experimental data analysis, and computer simulation will be employed to examine how tissue-scale changes in Gaussian curvature interact with cell-scale processes during fly embryogenesis.


A recent preprint from our collaboration can be found here:


How to apply:

To apply to any of these positions, please send cover letter, cv, and email addresses of two references to

Applications will be considered continuously until the respective position is filled.  Please do not hesitate to contact me for any informal inquiry regarding these offers.