Fabian Spill (he/him)

Principal Investigator (PI)


Fabian is an interdisciplinary scientist who has worked on a variety if different applications of mathematics in the world. During his PhD at Imperial College, Fabian investigated quite abstract symmetry structures in string and gauge theories. After his PhD he switched towards  Mathematical Finance, modelling derivatives at the investment bank of RBS. He found the ideal mixture of exciting mathematical modelling with fundamental scientific questions when starting to work as a postdoc in Mathematical Biology in Oxford. Following a further postdoc in bioengineering at MIT and at Boston University, he got his first faculty position as a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the University of Birmingham where he is still based. Currently, he is a Professor of Applied Mathematics, a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute.

Research Themes

Research Projects

Fabian has diverse research interests in the field of mathematical biology. Currently, he is trying to understand how mechanical properties of the cells and their microenvironment influence cell behaviour through mechanosensing pathways. For instance, YAP/TAZ are two important intracellular molecules which increase their activity with increasing stiffness of the substrate on which the cells are attached too, and this can drive proliferation of these cells. In the context of tumours, which are often stiffer than comparable healthy tissues, this might imply that physical properties such as stiffness can drive tumour progression (such as uncontrolled proliferation), complementing well-studied genetic alterations in tumours.

Fabian is developing mathematical models of the YAP/TAZ regulating pathway to study how mechanical and molecular stimuli are integrated by cells to mediate their responses. Moreover, he is interested in understanding how the subcellular localisation of signalling molecules affects the outcome of signal integration. This is of importance far beyond mechanosensing pathways, as almost all pathways involve subcellular localisation of at least some important molecules, such as those binding to the cell membrane. This can be especially important when cells change their shapes, and thus the region of membrane/cytosol interactions changes. Consequently, otherwise identical cells with different shapes can behave differently, simply because of their altered geometry.

Fabian is also interested in the application of stochastic models to biology. He investigated how stochastic effects can change the behaviour of reaction-diffusion systems, developed methods to improve simulation efficiency of such systems, and applied such methods to biological systems including tumour angiogenesis or travelling wave problems. More recently, he investigated how stochastic effects can shift the evolutionary outcome of the in-vitro selection of oligonucleotides. This later system is used to identify molecules which have particular binding properties to diverse target molecules.