Faculty Directory
Madhav Mani

Assistant Professor of Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics


2145 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208-3109

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Madhav Mani Research


Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics


PhD Program in Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences

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Ph.D Applied Mathematics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

S.M. Engineering Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Masters of Advanced Studies in Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Cambridge University, England

M.A. in Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, England

B.A. in Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, England

Research Interests

We are first and foremost problem solvers comprised of physicists, mathematicians, and biologists. The problems we work on, in collaboration with experimental labs, come from developmental biology and ecology.  We contribute to the solution by taking a physical mathematics approach to quantitation, analysis, and modeling of experimental data. Team members work closely with experiments, often sitting in the lab as data comes off the microscope. This interdisciplinary approach is a major theme in our work -- the nature of the scientific enterprise demands it.


Why study biology? Nothing changes about the structure of the water molecule in the gaseous, liquid, and solid phases -- the effects are a collective property of the system. Despite such striking emergent properties being present in systems that are manifestly simpler than those encountered in biology, the concept of mechanism in biology remains a molecular one.  Inspired by Phil Anderson's "call to arms", our focus is on the collective properties of biological systems, in particular, those properties that are functionally relevant. We work with developmental, ecological, and evolutionary systems, driven by the view that there is a lot to be discovered in biology taking a non-molecular point of view. And, history has made clear, that studying new phenomena is perhaps the most effective way to discover new mathematical and physical frameworks.


What is physical mathematics? Juxtaposing the unbiased, and often uninterpretable,  Machine-Learning approach to quantifying and modeling biological systems, the physical mathematics approach is one that facilitates interpretation, and a back-and-forth with experiments. Ideas from applied mathematics, physics, statistics, and AI are blended to find a quantitative framework for phenomena of interest. In particular, concepts from statistical mechanics, dynamical systems, statistics, and high-performance computing form the basis of our approach.

Significant Recognition

  • Simons Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2010 - 2013
  • Derek Bok Undergraduate Teaching Award, Harvard University, 2009
  • Robert L. Wallace Prize Fellowship, Harvard University, 2007 - 2008

Selected Publications

    Collective Polarization and gradient sensing in the Fat pathway: M. Mani, S. Goyal, K. Irvine, B.I. Shraiman (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110.51 - 2013)

    Principles of E-cadherin supramolecular organization in vivo: B.A.T. Quang, M. Mani, O. Markova, T. Lecuit, P-F. Lenne (Current Biology 23.22 - 2013)

    Propagation of Dachsous-Fat Planar Cell Polarity, A. A. Ambegaonkar, G. Pan, M. Mani, Y. Feng, K. D. Irvine (Current Biology, Volume 22 June 2012)

    Physical ageing of the contact line on colloidal particles at liquid interfaces David M. Kaz, Ryan McGorty, M. Mani, Michael P. Brenner, and Vinothan N. Manoharan (Nature Materials, 11, 138-142 - 2012)

    How Things Get Stuck: Kinetics, Elastohydrodynamics, and Soft Adhesion M. Mani, Arvind Gopinath, and L. Mahadevan (Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 226104 - 2012)

    Self assembly of magnetically interacting cubes by a turbulent fluid flow: Filip Ilievski, M. Mani, G. Whitesides, M.P. Brenner (Phys. Rev. E, 83, 017301 - 2011)

    Events before droplet splashing on a solid surface: M. Mani, S. Mandre, M. Brenner (J. Fluid Mech., 647, 163 - 2010)

    Precursors to splashing of liquid droplets on a solid surface: S. Mandre, M. Mani, M. Brenner (Phys. Rev. Lett. 102, 134502, 2009)

    Botanical ratchets: I. Kulic, M. Mani, H. Mohrbach, R. Thaokar, L. Mahadevan (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (B), Biological Sciences, 276, 2243-47, 2009)