Mechanics of Development



Timothy Saunders received his undergraduate and masters degrees in physics from Cambridge University (2000-2004). He then completed his D.Phil. in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford (2004-2007).  For his first post-doctoral position, he worked for Prof. Martin Howard at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK. There, he developed models for understanding how morphogen gradients could be reliably interpreted in the presence of biochemical noise.  Following this, he received an EIPOD fellowship and moved to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.  There he worked in the labs of Dr. Lars Hufnagel and Dr. Eileen Furlong applying biophysical techniques to better understand the robust development of the Drosophile embryo.  In 2013 he won an NRF Fellowship to start his own laboratory in Singapore. Since September 2013 he has been principally based at the Mechanobiology Institute, a Research Centre of Excellence, with joint appointments with the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore and IMCB.


Mechanics of Development lab
The Saunders laboratory studies how biological systems manage to function so reliably despite the inevitable presence of noise (i.e. how is nature "robust"?). There are numerous potential sources of error for living organisms, ranging from biochemical fluctuations inside single cells to specimen-to-specimen variability. We use developing organisms to study questions related to robustness due to the large-scale cell and tissue changes (both genetic and mechanical) that typically occur over a relatively short period during embryogenesis and the remarkably high level of reproducibility. We use techniques from biology, physics and engineering to better understand how the process of a single-cell egg develops into a viable adult with such amazing precision.


Recent Publications

K. Pan, T. E. Saunders, I. F. Parra, M. Howard and F. Chang
Cortical regulation of cell size by a sizer cdr2p.
eLife, (March 2014).

J. Erceg, T. E. Saunders, C. Giradout, Damien P. Devos, L. Hufnagel and E. E. Furlong
Subtle changes in motif positioning cause tissue-specific effects on robustness of enhancer activity.
PLoS Genetics, e1004060 (January 2014).

U. Krzic, S. Gunther, T. E. Saunders, S. Streichan and L. Hufnagel
Multiview light-sheet microscope for rapid in toto imaging.
Nature Methods 9, 730-733 (June 2012).

T. E. Saunders*, K. Z. Pan*, A. Angel, Y. Guan, J. V. Shah, M. Howard and F. Chang
Noise reduction in the intracellular Pom1p gradient by a dynamic clustering mechanism.
Developmental Cell 22 , 558-572 (February 2012).

U. Krzic, T. E. Saunders, S. Streichan and L. Hufnagel
Using Scientic CMOS Technology for Fast 3D Imaging with Selective-Plane Illumination.
Microscopy and analysis 26 , (January 2012).

F. He*, T. E. Saunders*, Y. Wen*, D. Cheung, R. J. Jiao, P. R. ten Wolde, M. Howard and J. Ma
Shaping a morphogen gradient for positional precision.
Biophysical Journal 99 , 697-707 (August 2010).

A. Andreanov, J. T. Chalker, T. E. Saunders and D. Sherrington
Spin glass transition in geometrically frustrated antiferromagnets with weak disorder.
Physical Review B 81 , 014406 (January 2010).
This paper was an Editor's Suggestion of the month.

T. E. Saunders and M. Howard
When it pays to rush: interpreting morphogen gradients prior to steady-state.
Physical Biology 6 , 046020 (November 2009).
Physical Biology chose this paper as one of its "Highlights of the Year 2009".

T. E. Saunders and M. Howard
Morphogen Profiles Can Be Optimised to Buffer Against Noise.
Physical Review E 80, 041902 (October 2009). Recommended by Faculty of 1000.

T. Pickles, T. E. Saunders and J. T. Chalker
Critical phenomena in a highly constrained classical spin system:
Neel ordering from the Coulomb phase.
Europhysics Letters 84 , 36002 (October 2008).

T. E. Saunders and J. T Chalker
Structural phase transitions in geometrically frustrated antiferromagnets.
Physical Review B 77 , 214438 (June 2008).

T. E. Saunders and J. T. Chalker
Spin Freezing in Geometrically Frustrated Antiferromagnets with Weak Disorder.
Physical Review Letters 98 , 157201 (April 2007).

* denotes equal author contribution