What does glass and a dense layer of cells have in common?

Window glass and a dense layer of cells? They are more alike than they appear. This video series shows how Souvik Sadhukhan (graduate student at TIFR Hyderabad) came up with a theoretical explanation of the similarities between the two! Outreach effort funded by IndiaBioscience Outreach Grant.

When hot liquid glass is rapidly cooled to a solid form, the molecules get arranged randomly. While the glass may look like a solid to the bare eye, the random arrangement of glass molecules convey a different picture altogether. More on this puzzle:

This segment goes into some details of the scientific approach. It navigates through the stages involved in building the theoretical framework. Here’s the second part of the story…straight from the lab bench, oops! sorry..desktop.

Earlier studies which have modelled the movement of a monolayer of confluent cells report that properties such as cell shape and movement are instrumental in determining glass-like behaviour in cells.

Only the cells which have regular boundaries (Figure 1) and are less motile are considered to be in glass-like state. However, in his simulations, Souvik observed that even irregular-shaped cells (Figure 2) with low motility can show dynamics similar to glass molecules.

Souvik had been working with a population of cells that were created virtually by a computer programme. Do these virtual cells have any properties in common with their real world counterparts?

This study has been published in Physical Review E. Theory and simulation for equilibrium glassy dynamics in cellular Potts model of confluent biological tissue, Souvik Sadhukhan and Saroj Kumar Nandi Phys. Rev. E 103, 062403.

We reached out to artists for creating illustrations that would help explain the scientific concepts in a lucid way. Rutuja Chalke created the engaging illustrations and motion graphics for this video series. Ipsa Jain designed the beautiful poster.

In the first video, Souvik said,“Initially, I had some hesitation about working on biological application based problems because I belong to a core physics background.” Update: He has been recently spotted in Manish Jaiswals lab learning to dissect flies!


Direction and videography: Anusheela Chatterjee
Script: Anusheela Chatterjee (with inputs from Souvik Sadhukhan and reviewed by Saroj K. Nandi)
Illustrations and motion graphics: Rutuja D. Chalke
Simulations: Souvik Sadhukhan
Title video: Basil Thurakkal

– Antik Bhattacharya 
– M.R Jishnu Seshadri, Anugraha A., Basil Thurakkal (initial videography attempts)

– Anugraha A. (syncing of initially recorded files)