My PhD work in the Roberts lab at Brown University focused on skeletal muscle mechanics.
Skeletal muscles are organs highly specialized for the production of contractile force. They power movement in vertebrates and are ubiquitous among animals.
My dissertation, titled “The Hydrostatic Skeleton of Muscle”, explored the mechanical roles of muscle’s collagen-reinforced extracellular matrix. My colleagues and I showed that the extracellular matrix forms a soft skeleton within muscle that is supported by intracellular fluid pressure. This internal hydrostatic skeleton influences fundamental mechanical behaviors of muscle.
Here are the key takeaways:
-Changing the volume of fluid within a muscle alters its flexibility (Sleboda and Roberts 2017 Biol. Lett.; Sleboda, Wold, and Roberts 2019 J. Exp. Biol.).
-Intramuscular fluid pressures influence force generated during active muscle contractions (Sleboda and Roberts 2020 Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci.; Kier 2020 Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci.).
-Complex, collagen-reinforced extracellular matrices are a common feature of vertebrate muscle (Sleboda, Stover, and Roberts 2019 J. Morph.).
You can watch my dissertation defense talk below for a full overview of the work:
My postdoctoral work in the Sharif lab at McGill University is focused on the morphology and biomechanics of pulvinus organs. These hydraulically-powered organs power rapid, reversible movements in many plants, effectively acting as plant "muscles".
Using the touch-sensitive plant Mimosa pudica as a study system, we are exploring how pulvinus organs translate shifts in cell turgor pressure into rapid movements of leaves and petioles.
This is a collaborative project that brings together experts in microscopy, vertebrate physiology, and plant biomechanics. It is funded by a long-term postdoctoral fellowship from HFSP.
Please stay tuned!