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2019 Fellow

Asja Radja


PhD Institution
University of Pennsylvania
Postdoctoral institution and lab

Mahadevan Group, Harvard University

Next Steps

NSF-Simons Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University’s Initiative in Quantitative Biology

Asja completed her PhD in Physics at the University of Pennsylvania, where she worked on understanding the surface pattern formation mechanism of pollen grains using imaging, statistical mechanics, and computational techniques. As pollen grains have one of the most complex surface patterns of any cell, Asja’s work seeks to understand how these patterns form, both through imaging and physical modeling. She is furthermore interested in a diverse array of patterns that exist in nature, from microscopic to macroscopic scales. While Asja is motivated to seek out understanding on the physical origin and the underlying governance of these natural patterns, she also hopes that her work may inspire others to harness these patterns for engineering applications.

As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Asja moved into quantitative approaches to describe the growth and changes in some shapes that we see in living organisms. During her Fellowship year with the Mahadevan Group at Harvard, she specifically worked on quantifying the morphological variety of two-dimensional pavement cells on leaf surfaces. Bridging the training she has developed in statistical mechanics, computational methods, and evolutionary biology through her PhD, with the morphometric tools she gained at Harvard, Asja planned to develop a comprehensive understanding of pavement cell development in leaves that has not yet been attempted.

Now, Asja will continue her work as a NSF-Simons Postdoc at Harvard. She is hoping to continue to study how a variety of natural biological systems harness physics to create the patterns and shapes that we see in our everyday lives. Specifically, she is now venturing into marine biology to understand the structures of soft coral sea fans and single-celled protists called phaeodaria.