K. Michael Martini

Introduction and Research

Michael Martini

About Me

I am a graduate student and research assistant in the department of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Currently, I am conducting research with Nigel Goldenfeld studying phenomena as diverse as regime shifts in ecological systems, quasi patterns, image analysis of roots, and transposon dynamics and colony growth of E-coli. In previous semesters, I have acted as a teaching assistant for physics 101, 102, and 211 and was ranked as an excellent teacher all 7 semesters I taught. In the fall of 2012 I was also a mentor TA for physics 101 and in this capacity helped advise other graduate students on how to best teach discussion based on my previous experience.

My Research Interests

My research uses techniques from statistical mechanics and I use both computational and analytic models to study biological and ecological problems. One of the areas I am investigating is to see if there are early warning signs that an ecological system is about to have a regime shift (a phase transition from one steady state to another steady state). Specifically I am interested in looking at spatial systems and at signals and dynamics that are not present in the more studied well mixed and spatially uniform case.

I am also developing an agent based model of E-coli colony growth. This simulation is an attempt to understand the spatial and temporal patterning Tom Kuhlman observes when growing colonies of E-coli that fluoresce after a transposon events. In Tom Kuhlman's experiment he has modified E-coli so when a transposon cuts itself out of DNA two halves of a green fluorescent protein gene formerly separated by the transposon will come together and the cell will start to glow green. In the simulation cells are modeled by spherocylinders. The spherocylinders are slowly grown until they are large enough to divide at which stage there is a stochastic chance that if the cell was wild type then one of the daughter cells will change color. In subsequent cell divisions the daughter cell will stay that color along with its daughters. The cells are non-motile but can be pushed around due to the growth of other neighboring cells. These simple rules are enough to qualitatively reproduce patterns observed by Tom Kuhlman.

I am also working on an image analysis problem to correctly identify roots against noisy image backgrounds.