What are the principles driving morphogenesis? Geometry and mechanics often provide a powerful lens for understanding the mechanisms governing material behavior. I apply this lens to understand shape change of living tissues during development, in which geometry and mechanics interact with genetic signals. I address how biology patterns mechanical forces to sculpt visceral organs during morphogenesis, merging experimental and computational approaches from physics and cellular/molecular biology.

I am incoming faculty at the University of Chicago in MGCB and currently an NIH K99 scholar at UC Santa Barbara, where I work with Sebastian Streichan and Boris Shraiman. My PhD work at the University of Chicago with William Irvine focused on the mechanical behavior of soft materials such as thin elastic sheets and metamaterials. This work revealed that amorphous structures can support topologically insulating phases of matter, explored how curvature controls the energetics and paths of cracks in thin sheets, explained fracture patterns in nanoparticle sheets stamped on corrugated substrates, and related findings. I bring this background in physics and mechanics to questions in morphogenesis. In my undergraduate years, I studied dwarf galaxies.


email: npmitchell@kitp.ucsb.edu
ORCiD: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1922-8470
Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=2xEDEh0AAAAJ&hl=en

Recent awards

NIH K99/R00 Award, NICHD (2023-present)
Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Fellowship (2020-2023)
Springer Thesis Award (2019)
Otis Williams Postdoctoral Fellowship (2019-2020)
Yodh Prize in experimental physics (2017)
Wentzel Teaching Prize from University of Chicago (2013)
Other graduate fellowships (2012-2016)

Selected Publications

N. P. Mitchell, D. J. Cislo, S. Shankar, Y. Lin, B. I. Shraiman, S. J. Streichan, “Visceral organ morphogenesis via calcium-patterned muscle contractions.” eLife 11:e77355 (2022) [link]
N. P. Mitchell*, D. J. Cislo*. “TubULAR: Tracking in toto deformations of dynamic tissues via constrained maps.” bioRxiv (2022) [link]
N. P. Mitchell, L. M. Nash, D. Hexner, A. M. Turner, W. T. M. Irvine. “Amorphous topological insulators constructed from random point sets.” Nature Physics 14380–385 (2018) [link]
N. P. Mitchell, V. Koning, V. Vitelli, W. T. M. Irvine, “Fracture in sheets draped on curved surfaces.” Nature Materials 16, 89-93 (2017) [link]
N. P. Mitchell, R. Carey, J. Hannah, Y. Wang, M. Cortes, S. McBride, H. Jaeger. “Conforming nanoparticle sheets to surfaces with Gaussian curvature.” Soft Matter, 14, 9107 – 9117 (2018) [link]
N. P. Mitchell, L. M. Nash, W. T. M. Irvine. “Realization of a topological phase transition in gyroscopic lattices.” Physical Review B 97, 100302(R) (2018) [link]