University of Cambridge  >  DAMTP  >  Stephanie


Stephanie S.M.H. Höhn

Postdoctoral Researcher

Goldstein group Research Associate

Trinity Hall PDRA

Equality & Diversity Researcher Representative (DAMTP)

CamAWiSE (Cambridge Association for Women in Science & Engineering) Steering Group Member, Former Deputy-Chair

I believe that a diverse team and environment is crucial for the success of scientific research.

Research Interests

How do cells generate the forces that shape our tissues and organs? In developing embryos, its cells move and change their shape in an astoundingly coordinated way. We need to understand the underlying mechanics, as errors in this self-organisation can lead to severe birth defects. Many tissues, including the primal gut, the neural tube and our retina, are formed through Cell Sheet Folding. I combine advanced imaging, experiments and computational modelling to reveal biophysical and mechano-chemical mechanisms underlying Cell Sheet Folding.

Current & Future Research

inversiontypes Building on my previous work, I am using a comparative approach to reveal the physical principles governing invagination (inward folding) of cellular monolayers. Early embryos of the simple Chordate Amphioxus (the closest relative of vertebrates) and the green microalga Volvox are uniquely suited to study the dynamics and mechanics of cell sheet folding: They consist of spherical cellular monolayers that are accessible to direct measurements and perturbations of mechanical properties, fluorescent live imaging and computational modelling. Understanding the folding of cellular monolayers will serve as the groundwork to untangle the mechanisms driving more complicated events in invertebrates (e.g. echinoderms, cnidarians, ascidians) and vertebrates. This work is funded by independet grants awarded by the Cambridge Centre for Physical Biology and the Society for Developmental Biology.

Research expertise

Molecular cell biology (mutant strain generation, gene expression profiling), imaging (light sheet microscopy, CLSM, TEM, SEM), biophysical experiments (micropipette-aspiration, micro-manipulation, laser ablation) and theory (shell theory, visco-elasticity), and computational methods (GUI-based modelling platforms, Matlab, Comsol). I am using custom numerical models in collaboration to explore the mechano-chemical signalling processes giving rise to tissue deformations.

Inversion, a gastrulation-like process in Volvox globator; selective plane illumination microscopy (SPIM).


Cell sheet folding is a common morphogenetic process during the development of multicellular organisms. Spheroidal green algae of the genus Volvox are uniquely suited as simple model systems for studying the basic principles of epithelial folding. Volvox embryos consist of a cellular monolayer which turns itself inside-out to achieve its adult configuration; this process is called inversion. Different Volvox species have different tactics to turn their embryos inside out (fig. 1). These different types of inversion involve varying sequences of global shape changes driven by local active cell shape changes. I am seaking to reveal the relation between local cellular changes and global deformations.


Self-organisation of cellular patterns


Volvox sp.consists of several thousand small somatic cells and few (4-40) reproductive cells (gonidia) (fig. 2). Each somatic cell possesses two flagella which enable the organism to swim and perform phototaxis. All cells are embedded in a gelatinous extracellular matrix (ECM) that is secreted by the cells. In order to allow for coordinated swimming, the flagellated cells need to be positioned regularly within the ECM. Very little is known about the self-organisation of the correct cellular patterns in Volvox [5]. I am using cell tracking techniques and time-lapse microscopy to reveal the underlying mechanisms of cell positioning in the developing spheroids.

Society memberships

Royal Microscopy Society

Biophysical Society

Society for Developmental Biology

Previous work

Type B inversion in Volvox globator

I did my PhD research with Prof. Armin Hallmann in the Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology of Plants at the University of Bielefeld, on the embryonic type B inversion in Volvox globator.

V.globator inversion,type B