Philip Pearce

Office: 2-231B
Department of Mathematics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307


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Research Interests


Current/Previous Projects and Publications

Physical determinants of bacterial biofilm architectures (MIT Applied Mathematics Instructorship):

In many situations bacteria aggregate to form biofilms: dense, surface-associated, three-dimensional structures populated by cells embedded in matrix. Biofilm architectures are sculpted by mechanical processes including cell growth, cell-cell interactions and external forces. Using single-cell live imaging in combination with simulations we characterize the cell-cell interactions that generate Vibrio cholerae biofilm morphologies. Fluid shear is shown to affect biofilm shape through the growth rate and orientation of cells, despite spatial differences in shear stress being balanced by cell-cell adhesion. Our results demonstrate the importance of cell dynamics mediated by adhesion proteins and matrix generation in determining the global architecture of biofilm structures. In collaboration with the groups of Jörn Dunkel and Knut Drescher.

Flow and solute transport in the placenta (EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellowship):

Transport of nutrients and waste between mother and fetus takes place in the placenta. Maternal and fetal blood do not mix; maternal blood flows past the fetal villous trees, which consist of villous branches containing arteries, veins and capillaries of the fetus. In this project, a mathematical model is built to investigate how the structure of the fetal villous trees and the vessels inside them affects the transport of substances such as oxygen from the maternal blood to the fetal blood in the placenta. In collaboration with Oliver Jensen, Igor Chernyavsky, Paul Brownbill and others.

Propagation and stability of flames in inhomogeneous mixtures (EPSRC Doctoral Training Award):

In many practical situations involving a propagating flame, inhomogeneities are present in the mixture through which the flame propagates. These inhomogeneities can be caused by fluctuations or stratifications in the temperature, the composition or the flow field. In this project the effect of inhomogeneities on laminar flames is modelled, including premixed flames and triple flames, through the numerical and asymptotic solution of the coupled equations for temperature, mass fractions and flow. In collaboration with Joel Daou.

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