Thomas Day - December 2021

Thomas is a graduate student and PhD candidate in the School of Physics. He is co-advised by Prof. Peter Yunker (Physics) and Prof. William Ratcliff (Biology), developing and testing new biophysical understanding of the emergence and role of multicellular spatial structure for the evolution of early multicellular organisms. Before reaching Georgia Tech, Thomas grew up in Connecticut, then attended Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he was Captain for both Cross Country and Track & Field teams and researched heart health diagnostic methods from heart rate time series. At Georgia Tech, Thomas has developed an interest in research that spans the disciplines of physics and biology. Specifically, he is targeting our understanding for how the physics of intercellular interactions constrain and shape the evolution of multicellular body plans. His research takes advantage of the following two facts common to all multicellular organisms: they are comprised of cells that (i) take up space and (ii) are attached to one another. Therefore, both the geometry of cell packing in crowded environments and the topology of the intercellular bonds that connect the body together remain important considerations on timescales of both individual organism lifespans and their lineage’s evolutionary trajectory. For instance, intercellular bonds must sustain forces to keep the organism together, and yet also separate for the organism to reproduce. How organisms organize their cells into repeatable, functional patterns that achieve this balance is constrained by the physics of cell bumping, touching, and attachment. In the future, Thomas hopes to continue building understanding for how complex multicellular body plans may arise from their humble roots. Outside of research, Thomas is involved in a variety of hobbies: biking, woodworking, running, playing guitar, and camping. He is also heavily interested in improving the undergraduate experience, from diversity, to teaching, to research. For instance, he has worked on diversity inclusion in the School of Physics through their summer research experience for undergraduates program. In addition, he has worked closely with the Center for Teaching and Learning, establishing his own course taught to both undergraduates and graduate students. Finally, he has led undergraduate research experiences through both the VIP program at Georgia Tech and personal mentoring. Altogether, Thomas dreams of involving more students, especially from underrepresented backgrounds, in the scientific process which can be so fun and rewarding.