Skip to main content


Sophie de Buyl obtained her PhD in theoretical physics in 2006 under the supervision of Prof. M. Henneaux at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). She brought various contributions to the understanding of the mathematical structure of Big-Bang like singularities, the gauge/gravity correspondence and the black hole entropy problem during her PhD and post-doctoral stays at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques in Bures-sur-Yvette (2006-08), the University of California Santa Barbara (Marie Curie Fellowship, 2008-11 with return phase at ULB) and Harvard University (2011-13). During her last post-doc, she became interested in questions about living systems and connecting her theoretical work directly to experiments. After obtaining a Belspo return grant to come back to Belgium, she has joined the VUB in an interdisciplinary environment, the Applied Physics Research Group (APHY), as an Assistant Professor. She find great motivation in identifying general laws in data coming from biological systems and in the interplay between theory and experiments. Her lab is interested in all biological systems that can benefit from mathematical models and by addressing questions about robustness, fine-tuning and network architecture of these models.


Room: F9.07b
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Pleinlaan 2
1050 Brussels

Research interests

Biological systems rely on complex interaction networks at various scales. Using published datasets or working in collaboration with experimentalists, I am building models to understand emergent phenomena in biology as well as predict their temporal evolution. I am particularly interested by decision making in early embryogenesis and in building predictive dynamical models for microbial communities. All my projects rely on the theory of non-linear dynamics, statistical learning and statistical physics techniques.




Cell fate decision in embryonic development: We work in collaboration with the lab of H. Yasuo and Geneviève Dupont from ULB to study the embryonic development of ascidians which are model organisms for vertebrate development. How do cells take decision about their fate? What are the molecular mechanisms underlying this decision? To answer those questions and understand reproducibility in the process, we are focusing on neural induction in early embryonic development. More recently, we started working on information theory in embryogenesis.



Dynamical models of microbial communities: We aim at building dynamical models for human-associated microbial communities. We are interested in mechanisms leading to community structure and in predicting responses to perturbations, such as antibiotic treatments.




  microbial factories


Engineering genetic circuits for synthetic biology: In the long run, we aim at designing microbial factories for biofuel production in collaboration with Eveline Peeters and Wim Vranken. In the short run, we aim at developmenting biosensor modules to optimize production pathway performance in E. Coli, the most studied prokaryotic organism.



Virus mobility at cell surfaces: Recently, we started working on virus mobility at cell surfaces and how mobility affects infectivity. This work in collaboration with Bortolo Mognetti from  ULB.

Team members and Alumni

PhD students Rossana Bettoni (Joint PhD with G. Dupont at ULB),  Laurie Stevens (Joint PhD with B. Mognetti at ULB), Dorota Youmbi Fouego (Joint PhD with P. Woafo at Yaoundé U.) and Amber Bernauw (Joint PhD, main advisor E. Peeters at VUB).

MA student Vincent Crabbe (with E. Peeters) - BA student Jari Beysen


Alumni Lana Descheemaeker, PhD 2020 - Public Defense - --  Nathaniel Mon Père, PhD 2020 (Joint PhD with T. Lenaert ULB) - Public Defense -- Master students : L. Tuijnder and Z. Heyvaert -- Bachelor students : R. Dubois, A. Markavian, E. Vrijsen


Titularis: Modeling Complex Systems (Physics MA1) and Data Processing and Representation in Life Sciences (Bio-engineering Sciences MA1)

Co-titularis: Computational Physics (Physics MA1) and Quantitative Cell Biology (Engineers in Biomedical orientation, MA1)

Science & Cocktails Brussels

I am a founding member and co-organizer of Science&Cocktails Brussels.