Cum laude for Federica Burla

Published on June 26, 2020

On Friday, June 19th Federica Burla defended her PhD thesis Tailoring Extracellular Matrix Mechanics online at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.
Burla obtained the cum  laude degree for her doctorate research. This degree is reserved for the top 5% of the students. Gijsje Koenderink was the promotor. Until recently, Burla was a PhD student in the AMOLF research group of Gijsje Koenderink who left AMOLF to become full professor at TU Delft.

During her PhD at AMOLF Burla wanted to understand how cells can create tissues with very different mechanical properties -such as skin, bones or bone marrow- by using a limited set of building blocks. To answer this question she created reconstituted tissues and measured their mechanical properties while looking at their structure. Together with collaborators from Wageningen, she modeled the behavior of these networks to quantitatively predict their properties. Burla: “We showed that a combination of architectural and molecular (plastic) effects determines the mechanical properties of a tissue, specifically its rupture point. We also discovered precisely how, by combining two different constituents of tissues, we can modulate the way tissues respond to deformation. These findings are interesting because they help us understanding the behavior of tissues in the body, especially in relation to diseases such as cancer or fibrosis, but we can also use these principles to create smart materials to replace damaged parts of the body.”

Burla’s research at AMOLF was part of the Industrial Partnership Program (IPP) with Unilever Research & Development: the Hybrid Soft Materials program.