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Dr Katelyn Spillane
Dr Katelyn Spillane

Dr Katelyn Spillane

  • Academics
  • Supervisors

Senior Lecturer in Experimental Biophysics

Co-Director BiPAS CDT . Co-Director Leverhulme Mechanics of Life DSP .

Research subject areas

  • Physics

Contact details


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 PhD in physical chemistry from the University of California Berkeley in 2011. Her PhD was supervised by Professor 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 Professor 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.