Alexandra Jilkine

Assistant Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics


168C Hurley Hall

Research Cluster

Computational Models

I am interested in how cells establish asymmetry, divide and evolve.

In order to divide and grow cells need the ability to polarize, or form distinct cellular domains with different molecular components, at the front and back of the cell. In particular, cell polarization involves spatial diffusion processes coupled with biochemical reactions occurring within localized signaling compartments. I formulate and apply partial differential equations and stochastic models to understand how spatial and temporal patterns can emerge from coupling biochemical circuits and transport.   What is the effect of diffusion, active transport, cell geometry and stochasticity on robustness of cellular self-organization?

On the tissue level I am interested in cell fate specification. How does a cell know whether it will be a stem cell or a differentiated cell? What is the optimal division pattern in tissue for delaying cancer? Multiple feedback loops control decisions between proliferation and differentiation in self-renewing tissues. I use dynamical systems approaches to understand the effects of removing some of those redundant feedback loops. The insights obtained from differential equations models of cell lineages is applicable to basic understanding of stem cell lineage organization and how cancer cells can circumvent this design to escape homeostasis.


  1. "Modeling the dynamics of Cdc42 oscillation in fission yeast" Xu, B.; Jilkine, A. Biophys. J. 2018, 114, 711-722.
  2. "Effect of Dedifferentiation on Time to Mutation Acquisition in Stem Cell-Driven Cancers" Jilkine, A.; Gutenkunst, R.N. PLoS Comput. Biol. 2014, 10, e1003481.
  3. "A density-dependent switch drives stochastic clustering and polarization of signaling molecules" Jilkine, A.; Angenent, S.B.; Wu, L.F.; Altschuler, S.J. PLoS Comput. Biol. 2011, 7, e1002271.
  4. "Wave-pinning and cell polarity from a bistable reaction-diffusion system" Mori, Y.; Jilkine, A.; Edelstein-Keshet, L. Biophys. J. 2008, 94, 3684-3697.