UCL Division of Biosciences

Prof Guillaume Charras

Prof Guillaume Charras

Professor in Cell and Tissue Biophysics

London Centre for Nanotechnology

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Jan 2007

Research summary

Research in my lab is organised around three main themes: i) the cellular actin cortex; ii) mechanics of cells and tissues, and iii) cell migration in confined environments

The first theme seeks to understand the dynamic molecular mechanisms responsible for homeostasis of the submembranous actin cortex in cells. Combining proteomics and siRNA screening, we have uncovered the actin nucleators responsible for generation of the cell cortex as well as its proteic composition (Bovellan et al, Current Biology, 2014). The ultimate goal of this research is to understand cortical mechanics from the bottom-up using Scanning Electron Microscopy, mechanical characterisation by Atomic Force Microscopy, and polymer physics theories. 

At the cellular level, the second theme aims to understand the time-dependent mechanical properties of single cells (Moeendarbary et al, Nature Materials, 2013) and at the tissue level, we are trying to uncover how subcellular organisation and cellular mechanics govern tissue mechanical properties (Harris et al, PNAS, 2012). The cellular-scale work utilises Atomic Force Microscopy and informs our research on the tissue-scale work. At the tissue-level, we use monolayers devoid of a substrate to study the mechanics of load-bearing monolayers under well-controlled mechanical conditions while allowing imaging at subcellular, cellular and tissue resolutions. Our ultimate aim is to understand the biological determinants of monolayer mechanics and the biophysical processes that drive the individual cell behaviours participating in tissue morphogenesis.

The third theme utilises microfluidic devices to examine cell migration in confined three-dimensional environments. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly apparent that migration in 3D environments differs substantially from migration on 2D surfaces. Microfluidic devices offer a highly constrained environment that simplifies understanding of the physical processes underlying migration. In particular, our studies have highlighted a novel organisation for the cell leading edge during migration in confined environments (Wilson et al, Nature Communications, 2013). 

In all of its research, my laboratory combines analytical and characterisation techniques from physics and engineering with molecular cell biology techniques and quantitative microscopy to study questions relevant to cell and developmental biology. 


University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2002
Georgia Institute of Technology
Other higher degree, Master of Science | 1997
Ecole Centrale Paris
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Diplom- Ingenieur | 1997


2016-Present, Professor in Cell Biophysics, Cell and Developmental Biology, Group leader, London Centre for Nanotechnology

2014-2016, Reader in Cell Biophysics, London Centre for Nanotechnology, UCL

2007-2014, Royal Society University Research Fellow, London Centre for Nanotechnology, UCL 

2003-2007, Wellcome Trust Overseas Post-Doctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School, USA, Laboratory of Prof Tim Mitchison 

1999-2002, Ph. D. Biochemistry, University College London, Laboratory of Prof Mike Horton 

1996-1998, M. Sc. Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, Laboratory of Prof Robert Guldberg 

1994-1997, Diplome d'Ingenieur Ecole Centrale de Paris, France 

1992-1994, Classes Preparatoires Scientifiques, Lycee St Louis, France