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Dr Katelyn Spillane

Katelyn Spillane 

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7848 2150


Office: S6.31

Office Hours

Research GroupBiological Physics and Soft Matter


Katelyn graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2006 with a B.S. in chemistry and a B.A. in music. She received her Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California Berkeley in 2011. Her Ph.D. was supervised by Prof. Richard Mathies in the Department of Chemistry and focused on the ultrafast reaction dynamics of photoactive proteins. In 2011, she moved to the University of Oxford as an NIH postdoctoral fellow in the group of Prof. Philipp Kukura in the Department of Chemistry. While at Oxford, she used interferometric scattering microscopy to investigate the motion of individual lipid and protein molecules on the sub-millisecond-time and nanometre-length scales. In 2013, Katelyn took a second postdoctoral position in the group of Dr. Pavel Tolar in the Division of Immune Cell Biology at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, which has since become The Francis Crick Institute. While at the Crick, she investigated the role of mechanical forces in B cell antigen endocytosis. Katelyn joined the Department of Physics at King’s as a Lecturer in Experimental Biophysics in January 2018. 

Research interests

Research in our lab focuses on biophysical aspects of immune cell behaviour. We currently focus on B cells, which are white blood cells that are central to adaptive immune responses. B cell responses are influenced by mechanical stimuli such as force and the rigidity of neighbouring cells. B cells use protein receptors on their surface to receive mechanical cues outside the cell and translate them into biochemical signals inside the cell that trigger cellular responses. How this information transfer process works is not known. We investigate the underlying mechanisms by visualising interactions between surface receptors and the extracellular environment, measuring the forces that they generate, and detecting biochemical signalling events that they trigger. We do this using biophysical methods such as DNA-based tension sensors, nanopatterned substrates, and single-molecule fluorescence imaging. We also investigate how B cells interact with other immune cells in a contact called the immune synapse, with a particular interest in how mechanical force facilitates the transfer of information between the two cells. 

Publication Highlights

 B cell antigen extraction is regulated by physical properties of antigen-presenting cells. Katelyn M. Spillane and Pavel Tolar. The Journal of Cell Biology, 216, 217-230 (2017). 

Germinal center B cells recognize antigen through a specialized immune synapse architecture. Carla R. Nowosad, Katelyn M. Spillane, and Pavel Tolar. Nature Immunology, 17, 870-877 (2016). 

Force generation in B-cell synapses: mechanisms coupling B-cell receptor binding to antigen internalization and affinity discrimination. Pavel Tolar and Katelyn M. Spillane. Advances in Immunology, 123, 69-100 (2014). 

High-speed single-particle tracking of GM1 in model membranes reveals anomalous diffusion due to interleaflet coupling and molecular pinning. Katelyn M. Spillane*, Jaime Ortega-Arroyo*, Gabrielle de Wit, Christian Eggeling, Helge Ewers, Mark I. Wallace, and Philipp Kukura. Nano Letters, 14, 5390-5397 (2014). (*equal contribution) 

Label-free, all-optical detection, imaging and tracking of a single protein. J. Ortega-Arroyo, J. Andrecka, K. M. Spillane, N. Billington, Y. Takagi, J. R. Sellers, and P. Kukura. Nano Letters, 14, 2065-2070 (2014). 

Direct observation and control of supported lipid bilayer formation with interferometric scattering microscopy. Joanna Andrecka, Katelyn M. Spillane, Jaime Ortega-Arroyo, and Philipp Kukura, ACS Nano, 7, 10662-10670 (2013).

PhD Vacancies

Applications are invited for research in the Biological Physics and Soft Matter group.

To apply for the Physics MPhil/PhD all candidates must apply online.  Further details and guidelines can be found on the page How to Apply for a PhD/MPhil.

All relevant information regarding eligibility, including academic and English language requirements, is available from the online prospectus.

We have several funded opportunities available. All eligible applications will be automatically considered for these award. There are a number of funding schemes available associated with different application deadlines and eligibility requirements. Please visit our 'Funding your PhD' webpage for further details.

For further details contact Dr Katelyn Spillane and or the Postgraduate Tutor Dr Cedric Weber.

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