Living Systems Institute

Harmansa Group


We are hiring! Fully funded 4-year PhD and Postdoc projects available (see below and here).

Morphomechanics – Shaping Growing Tissues

Morphogenesis delineates the complex process of shape generation during embryonic development. Morphogenesis is an intrinsically mechanical process where cellular activities, like contractility or growth, lead to stresses that mechanically mould tissues into their complex 3D shapes. Proper morphology is essential for organ functionality and defects in morphogenesis are linked to developmental disorders and disease.

We are particularly interested in the interplay between growing epithelial tissues and their basement membranes (BMs), specialised sheet-like extracellular matrices.

Like the foundation of a building, BMs acts as base for epithelial cells and their mechanical properties (such as stiffness) as well as their growth properties directly influence cell and tissue morphology. We recently demonstrated that differential growth between a tissue and its BM leads to the accumulation of growth-induced mechanical stresses that guide tissue morphology (Harmansa et.al. 2023). Using a combination of Drosophila genetics, advanced imaging techniques, quantitative biophysical tools and data-informed modelling we aim to uncover how such stresses arise during tissue growth and how they guide the mechanics of morphogenesis.

We are a newly established group that officially joined LSI in February 2024 and we will be supported by a Wellcome Career Development Award given to Stefan Harmansa.  For more details on our current research, news and open positions please visit our group’s webpage.

Current Opportunities:

Are you excited by the huge diversity of shapes observed in biological systems and how they are generated? Would you like to work in an interdisciplinary environment and bridge between biology, physics and scientific computing? Then come and join our young and dynamic team in beautiful Exeter.

We currently have several fully-funded open positions for innovative, passionate and motivated scientists that wish to join us for their PhD or postdoctoral work. Please get in touch with me if you would like to further discuss current projects and opportunities (Dr. Stefan Harmansa, s.harmansa@exeter.ac.uk)


  • PhD PositionBiophysical Characterization of Basement Membrane Mechanics

Developmental Biology, Morphogenesis, Biophysics, Super-resolution microscopy, Atomic Force Microscopy, Image Analysis

Published Date: 12/02/2024

This project combines genetics, super-resolution imaging and quantitative biophysical tools aiming to uncover how BM structure and organisation relates to its mechanical properties and how these properties change during developmental tissue growth.

Click here for more information or download the offer.


  • Postdoctoral Researcher PositionCellular Regulation of Basement Membrane Growth

Developmental Biology, Morphogenesis, Drosophila Genetics, Correlative Light and Electron Microscopy, Live Imaging

Published Date: 12/02/2024

This project aims to unravel the intricate cellular regulation of Basement Membrane (BM) growth and organisation using the fruit fly Drosophila. This position offers a unique opportunity to work at the interface of biology and physics, mastering a wide set of cutting-edge techniques and create unprecedented insight into the growth regulation of BMs.

Click here for more information or to download the offer.