School of Physics Colloquium

Saad Bhamla ; The Blob: Topologically Entangled Living Matter

Speaker: Saad Bhamla (GaTech CHBE)

Host: Zeb Rocklin

Title: The Blob: Topologically Entangled Living Matter

Abstract: Tangled active filaments are ubiquitous in nature, from chromosomal DNA and cilia carpets to root networks and worm collectives. How activity and elasticity facilitate collective topological transformations in living tangled matter is not well understood. In this talk, I will share our discoveries on why aquatic worms braid, tangle, and knot with their neighbors to form extraordinary mechano-functional living blobs - the stuff of science fiction. I will discuss how these soft, squishy, and 3-D blobs rapidly morph their shape, crawl, float, climb, self-assemble, and disassemble topological tangles. Using both mathematical models and robotic analogs, I will discuss how these “living polymers” solve Gordian knot problems using clever biophysics mechanisms that open a path to new classes of active topologically tunable robotic swarms.


Saad Bhamla studies biomechanics across species to engineer knowledge and tools that inspire curiosity. Saad Bhamla is an assistant professor of biomolecular engineering at Georgia Tech. A self-proclaimed "tinkerer," his lab is a trove of discoveries and inventions that span biology, physics and engineering. His current projects include studying the hydrodynamics of insect urine, worm blob locomotion and ultra-low-cost devices for global health. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Economist, CNN, Wired, NPR, the Wall Street Journal and more. Saad is a prolific inventor and his most notable inventions includes a 20-cent paper centrifuge, a 23-cent electroporator, and the 96-cent hearing aid. Saad's work is recognised by numerous awards including a NIH R35 Outstanding Investigator Award, NSF CAREER Award, CTL/BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, and INDEX: Design to Improve Life Award. Saad is also a National Geographic Explorer and a TED speaker. Newsweek recognized Saad as 1 of 10 Innovators disrupting healthcare. Saad is a co-founder of Piezo TherapeuticsOutside of the lab, Saad loves to go hiking with his partner and two dogs (Ollie and Bella).

Event Details


  • Date: 
    Monday, September 11, 2023 - 3:30pm to 4:30pm

Marcus Nanotechnology Bldg. Room: 1116-1118