During my studies in Artificial Intelligence at the Utrecht University, I was involved in autonomous robotics research and participated in the RoboCup soccer challenge (de Back, 2001, Wiering et al. 2004). I helped set up the RoboLab, worked as a teaching assistant, and organized several meetings, including “Robo Sapiens” (de Back et al., 2001) and BNAIS 2002, the 1st Dutch student symposium on AI. Shifting more towards biology, I wrote my M.Sc. thesis on individual-based modeling of eco-evolutionary systems (de Back, 2006).

After graduation, I started working at the Collegium Budapest – Institute for Advanced Study. There, I developed large-scale computational models of food web evolution (de Back and Kampis, 2009) as well as an open-source software GridABM for agent-based modeling in grid computing environment (Guylas et al., 2009) in the context of the EU FP6-funded QosCosGrid project. In Budapest, I also developed mathematical and computational models on prebiotic evolution combining cellular automata with RNA folding algorithms (Branciamore et al., 2008).

Moving to the Center for High Performance Computing at TU Dresden, Germany, in 2009, I turning to the study of multicellular systems in developmental biology. I have studied pattern formation in the developing pancreas by coupling gene regulation network models to intercellular signaling (de Back et al., 2012; de Back et al., 2013) and vascular morphogenesis using a hybrid cell-based/PDE model (Köhn-Luque et al., 2011; Köhn-Luque et al., 2013).

Together with Jörn Starruß, I have developed Morpheus, a modeling and simulation environment to model multi-scale multicellular systems (Starruß et al., 2014). This user-friendly computational platform was officially released in 2014 and released as open source project in 2016. It allows users to reliably integrate discrete cell-based models with continuous models of intra- and extracellular dynamics without the need for programming.

Current and future research

Currently, I focus on understanding liver tissue organization with the Zerial lab at MPI-CBG. and study spatial patterning in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESC) with the Roeder lab at the Dresden medical faculty. I also continue working on vascular development with Takashi Miura’s lab in Kyushu University (Japan).

With Jörn Starruß and others, I am working to extend Morpheus to better facilitate image-based systems biology and its integration in the image analysis workflow in general. In collaboration with the Tissue Imaging and Analysis Center (TIGA) in Heidelberg, I am developing various initiatives to foster and strengthen software development in multiscale multicellular systems biology.

References (chronological order)

Marco Wiering, Stefan Leijnen, Koster Andrew, Walter de Back

Institute Presentation: Autonomous Intelligent Robots at Utrecht University Journal Article

International Journal of Advanced Robotics Systems, 1 (2), 2004.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

Walter de Back, Marco Wiering, Edwin de Jong

Red Queen dynamics in a predator-prey ecosystem Inproceedings

Proceedings of the 8th annual conference on Genetic and evolutionary computation - GECCO'06, ACM Press, 2006.

Links | BibTeX

Walter de Back, George Kampis

Emergence and analysis of complex food webs in an individual-based artificial ecology Inproceedings

2009 IEEE Symposium on Artificial Life, IEEE, 2009.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

Laszlo Gulyas, Walter de Back, Gabor Szemes, George Kampis

Templates for Distributed Agent-Based Simulations Inproceedings

5th International Conference on e-Social Science, 2009.

Abstract | BibTeX

Alvaro Köhn-Luque, Walter de Back, Jörn Starruss, Andrea Mattiotti, Andreas Deutsch, José María Pérez-Pomares, Miguel A. Herrero

Early embryonic vascular patterning by matrix-mediated paracrine signalling: a mathematical model study Journal Article

PLoS One, 6 (9), pp. e24175, 2011.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

Walter de Back, Joseph Xu Zhou, Lutz Brusch

On the role of lateral stabilization during early patterning in the pancreas Journal Article

J R Soc Interface, 10 (79), pp. 20120766, 2012.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

Walter de Back, Roland Zimm, Lutz Brusch

Transdifferentiation of pancreatic cells by loss of contact-mediated signaling Journal Article

BMC Syst Biol, 7 , pp. 77, 2013.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

Alvaro Köhn-Luque, Walter de Back, Yoshimi Yamaguchi, Kenji Yoshimura, Miguel Angel Herrero, Takashi Miura

Dynamics of VEGF matrix-retention in vascular network patterning Journal Article

Phys Biol, 10 (6), pp. 066007, 2013.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

Jörn Starruß, Walter de Back, Lutz Brusch, Andreas Deutsch

Morpheus: a user-friendly modeling environment for multiscale and multicellular systems biology Journal Article

Bioinformatics, 30 (9), pp. 1331–1332, 2014.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX