My research focuses on the T cells of our immune system, which defend us from disease by cleaning up infected and cancerous cells. A special challenge for T cells is that they often find themselves in large "collectives" of many cells that must all work together—and that changes everything.
"The whole is more than the sum of its parts" is a popular saying that describes the issue well. For example, a flock of birds can fly in complex maneuvers even though each individual bird flies according to simple rules. The same holds true for T cells: the collective can behave in ways that are far more complex than any single cell could ever accomplish.
In my work I therefore examine how T cells behave in a collective, and how this differs from the behaviour of single cells. For this I use computer simulations; by encoding the simple "rules" of the individual in the computer, we can explore how this translates to the behaviour of the group (like a "recipe" in which we can vary ingredients to see how they affect the flavour of the resulting dish). To facilitate this work, I also build software that is freely available to other scientists such as Artistoo and CelltrackR.