Dr. Martin Girard
Martin Girard studied engineering physics and obtained his bachelors of engineering and master of applied sciences from Polytechnique Montréal. He then moved to Northwestern University in Evanston near Chigaco in 2014 and earned a PhD in 2018 under the supervision of Prof. Monica Olvera de la Cruz. He joined the MPIP as a post-doc in 2018, earning a Alexander von Humboldt fellowship to pursue biological physics, and was appointed as group leader in 2022.
The physics of biology
Cells are compartmentalized; organelles such as the mitochondria are surrounded by a lipid membrane. Organelles can be further divided, with proteins forming condensates through phase separation processes. Disruption of cell organization is linked to dysfunction, in particular with respect to neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding the links between all these phenomena requires a good physical model of cellular function. We mainly focus on equilibrium systems, as they are still largely poorly understood, and the understanding of driven systems relies on the understanding of equilibrium.
We aim to further the understanding of links between hierarchical organization, phase behavior, (dys)function and disease. Biological systems have two major differences with usual systems, the large number of components, and the finite-size of cells. These can lead to significant differences as cells do not have to obey rules stemming from macroscopic thermodynamics. We target a multitude of systems of interests: lattice-based mixing models, multicomponent membranes, protein-lipid interactions, and phase behavior of proteins.