Carnegie Mellon University
October 06, 2021

Shiladitya Banerjee Receives NIH MIRA Award to Study the Biophysics of Cellular Adaptation

By Ben Panko

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

Assistant Professor of Physics Shiladitya Banerjee has received a Maximizing Investigators Research Award (MIRA) from the National Institutes of Health to support his research on biophysical models and mechanisms of cellular adaptation to environmental stress’. The award will fund the Banerjee research group over five years with ~ $1.6 million. 

"We want to uncover the mechanisms by which living organisms and cells respond to dynamic changes and stresses in their environment," Banerjee said of his work, which focuses on building theoretical and computational models of living systems. 

"The traditional understanding is that cells can adapt to stress by changing their internal biochemistry," Banerjee said. "Our hypothesis is that cells can also do that by changing their shapes and biomechanical properties."

In research published this year in the journal Nature Physics, Banerjee studied how bacterial growth and morphologies evolve over multiple generations in response to different doses of antibiotics. With theoretical modeling and single-cell experiments, he and his collaborators concluded that changes in bacterial cell size, shape, and mechanical properties enabled bacteria to grow more resilient to antibiotics.

In this project, Banerjee plans to extend this line of inquiry to other model organisms to observe and model how they adapt to changing nutrient, temperature or antibiotic conditions. Along with bacteria, Banerjee will seek to study the embryos of worms and other living things to better understand how they can survive stressful conditions in a state of dormancy.