Spatz group

The primary scientific goal of the Spatz group is to develop technologies, based on physics, chemistry and materials science, for unraveling fundamental problems in cellular science, as well as to construct life-like materials. In this context, we aim for a fundamental understanding of (i) specific topics related to the pathophysiology of cells and cell cohorts by analyzing and manipulating cells on the nanoscale; (ii) how to bottom-up assemble synthetic cell functions and materials, (iii) the role of growth factors in cellular mechanobiology, and (iv) the role of polysaccharides of the extracellular matrix in regulating cell fate.

Our focus at IMSEAM is on the development of synthetic cell compartments and specifically tuned synthetic cell environments. All these projects benefit from the highly interdisciplinary nature of the department and the MPI for Medical Research, where the group is located.

Two group leaders contribute to the research and teaching of the Spatz group:

The work of E. Ada Cavalcanti-Adam is centered on cellular and molecular mechanobiology. Her group aims to unravel the molecular mechanisms that coordinate cell responses to biochemical and biomechanical cues provided by extracellular environment. A particular focus is on forces involved in cell adhesion and migration.

Heike Boehm is involved in the development of interfaces to study cell-matrix interactions mediated by carbohydrates. Her group designs synthetic matrices and interfaces to specifically present different glycosaminoglycans and glyco-conjugates. These materials are then used to study cell-interactions.


Find the Spatz department here:
Departmental group of Ada Cavalcanti-Adam:
Departmental group of Heike Boehm:


The teaching in the Spatz group is carried out by Prof. Joachim Spatz, PD Dr. Dr. E. Ada Cavalcanti-Adam and PD Dr. Heike Boehm (See LSF). Our lectures and seminars address students in Matter to Life, Molecular Biotechnology, Physics and Chemistry.

Internships in the Spatz group: We regularly take interns studying Matter to Life, Molecular Biotechnology and Physics, but welcome anyone interested in our research.

Please contact E. Ada Cavalcanti Adam (, if you are interested to carry out an internship in the direction of mechanobiology.

For all other internship applications in the Spatz department, please contact Heike Boehm ( and indicate which topic(s) you are most inspired by.

Joachim Spatz is the chair of the Max Planck School Matter to Life ( and Ada Cavalcanti-Adam is a Fellow of the school.