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)

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