Growth and Morphogenesis
I have always been intrigued by geometrical problems, especially those arising in the life sciences. This started already in the final year of High School when my maths teacher showed me a book called On Growth and Form by D'Arcy Thompson. Well, that was the beginning of the story! Here is the rest..
Morphogenesis of the gastrointestinal system
The intestine is one of the most structurally complex and fascinating organ in our body. A closer look at its inner surface reveals a variety of geometrical patterns. These are known to form since the early stages of embryo development. However, the mechanisms underlying their formation are unclear.
Together with my supervisor Pasquale Ciarletta, we proposed a new model which aims at explaining the origins of these patterns. The idea is actually very simple: you can imagine the intestine as a twolayered cylinder made of two different elastic materials, the outer of which much stiffer than the inner one. During the embryonic development both grow, whereby the inner tends to push against the outer and viceversa depending on who grows "faster". This mechanism causes an accumulation of mechanical stresses in the tissues which eventually ends up being very unstable. At some point—in order to release these stresses—the inner surface of the cylinder encounters a dramatic change of shape. Basically it goes from an initial circular shape to a final buckled one. Depending on where you look at the intestine, you find different patterns and we showed that this variety mainly depends on the mechanical properties of the two embryonic layers and on their initial thickness. 

Related publications:
My PhD thesis
V. Balbi, E. Kuhl, P. Ciarletta. Morphoelastic control of gastrointestinal organogenesis: theoretical predictions and numerical insights. J Mech Phys Solids, 2015, DOI
P. Ciarletta, V. Balbi, E. Kuhl. Pattern selection in growing tubular tissues. Phys Rev Lett, 2014, DOI.
V. Balbi, P. Ciarletta. Morphoelasticity of intestinal villi. J Roy Soc Interface, 2013, DOI.
V. Balbi and P. Ciarletta. Mathematical modeling of morphogenesis in living materials (Chapter 4) in L. Preziosi et al. (eds) Mathematical Models and Methods for Living Systems. Lecture Notes in Mathematics, vol 2167. Springer, Cham
V. Balbi, E. Kuhl, P. Ciarletta. Morphoelastic control of gastrointestinal organogenesis: theoretical predictions and numerical insights. J Mech Phys Solids, 2015, DOI
P. Ciarletta, V. Balbi, E. Kuhl. Pattern selection in growing tubular tissues. Phys Rev Lett, 2014, DOI.
V. Balbi, P. Ciarletta. Morphoelasticity of intestinal villi. J Roy Soc Interface, 2013, DOI.
V. Balbi and P. Ciarletta. Mathematical modeling of morphogenesis in living materials (Chapter 4) in L. Preziosi et al. (eds) Mathematical Models and Methods for Living Systems. Lecture Notes in Mathematics, vol 2167. Springer, Cham