Department of Physics
Driving Chaos Off the Grid — Analyzing Networks in Microfluidic Lattices of Chemical Oscillators
In nature, living organisms often synchronize to form large, coherent structures. While this synchronous coupling is essential to life as we know it, it remains exceedingly difficult to control. Controlling synchronizations requires the direct manipulation of individual organisms, something that is currently unfeasible on a large scale. To better study large-scale synchronizations, our lab constructs lattices of nanoliter-scale PDMS wells filled with the chemically oscillating Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction.
Depending on their architectures, these lattices can induce different oscillatory patterns between individual wells and their neighbors. With the addition of a photosensitive catalyst, the BZ reaction becomes light sensitive, making it possible to inhibit wells individually when exposed to blue light. Using this technique, one can influence largescale synchronous behaviors on these lattices with relative ease.
The lab is a unit made up of smaller bits, each with its passions. The group’s character is dictated by everyone’s, each capable of change and adaptation. In such a setting, social events and group discussions are just as important as independent accomplishments. One learns to balance work and play, autonomy and communication, for the forward development of the whole.
In retrospect, I think it’s fitting that I spent my summer researching network dynamics: I’ve seen how networks can become interlocked, spastic, difficult to manipulate. With that in mind, I feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to work with such a cohesive group of scientists. Together we solved problems, critiqued one another, socialized. Without direct instruction, they taught me how to effectively describe my thoughts, my data, and my findings. The uninterrupted 10 weeks of support and inspiration were paramount to my development as a scientist, a critical thinker, and a well-rounded individual. Above all, I learned this summer what it means to be part of a productive community of happy, determined individuals and why I want to help such communities thrive.