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Sainsbury Laboratory

Investigating the role of the cytoskeleton in plant morphogenesis

My primary research focuses on the simulation of cytoskeletal systems, with special emphasis on dynamics of filaments such as actin and microtubules. Microtubule behaviour plays a vital role in plant morphogenesis, and by understanding their processes, I hope to gain new insights into the cellular processes governing cell shape and tissue organization in the plant and animal kingdom. At the Sainsbury Lab, I am part of François Nédélec’s group, and we work on the development of an open-source cross-platform simulation tool called Cytosim, for the purpose of modelling a network of filaments connected by molecular motors.


Research background

I have a background in computational biomechanics, specialising in finite element based approaches to build multiscale models of biological tissues. During my PhD at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, I studied the kinematics pertaining to mechanotransduction in the carnivorous plant Venus flytrap, under the supervision of Dr. Ingo Burgert, Dr. Hans Herrmann and in collaboration with Dr. Ueli Grossniklaus at the University of Zurich. Prior to my PhD, I obtained my master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the State University of New York, Stony Brook (SBU), USA. For my master’s thesis, I worked at the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Research Laboratory under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Yi-Xian Qin to develop poro-elastic finite element models of musculoskeletal tissues of the human body.

I hail from the northeast-Indian state of Assam, which is popular for its splendid black tea and is also famous for the one-horned rhinoceros. In my free time, I enjoy making short science documentaries, playing tennis, hiking in the mountains, and going on long cycling tours.


Key Publications

Saikia, E., Läubli, N. F., Vogler, H., Rüggeberg, M., Herrmann, H. J., Burgert, I., Burri, J. T., Nelson, B. J., Grossniklaus, U., & Wittel, F. K. (2021). Mechanical factors contributing to the Venus flytrap’s rate-dependent response to stimuli. Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology.

 Saikia, E., Läubli, N. F., Burri, J. T., Rüggeberg, M., Schlepütz, C. M., Vogler, H., Burgert, I., Herrmann, H. J., Nelson, B. J., Grossniklaus, U., & Wittel, F. K. (2021). Kinematics Governing Mechanotransduction in the Sensory Hair of the Venus flytrap. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22(1), 280.

 Burri, J. T., Saikia, E., Läubli, N. F., Vogler, H., Wittel, F. K., Rüggeberg, M., Herrmann, H. J., Burgert, I., Nelson, B. J., & Grossniklaus, U. (2020). A single touch can provide sufficient mechanical stimulation to trigger Venus flytrap closure. PLOS Biology, 18(7), e3000740.


Science communication and outreach activities

How Venus flytraps also snap

Dust Puzzles - a short film (7 mins) – Scientists as filmmakers 2021​​​​​​​​​​

HEIDI launch by ARIS Space – a reusable rocket with 3km altitude.


Research Associate

Contact Details

Sainsbury Laboratory
University of Cambridge
47 Bateman Street