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Physical Modeling of Cell Shape Changes during Movement and Stress Response

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  • Full or part time
    Dr S Banerjee
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We are pleased to invite applications for a fully funded 3.5-year PhD studentship in the area of Theoretical Biophysics at the University College London (UCL). The studentship will be based at the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Institute for the Physics of Living Systems (IPLS) at UCL. IPLS is a cross-faculty institute with a mission to promote interdisciplinary research at the interface of physics and biology for a fundamental understanding of the complex behaviors of living systems.

The proposed project will be carried out in the newly established theoretical group of Dr. Shiladitya Banerjee at IPLS. The research group uses techniques and methods from theoretical physics and applied mathematics to develop quantitative models of biological processes essential for regulating cellular physiology and development. We seek to recruit a highly motivated and bright PhD student who will contribute towards the understanding of how living cells and cellular assemblies modulate their shapes and mechanical properties as functions of their internal structure and external stresses. The goal is to develop predictive physical models relating cell shape changes to the architecture and the dynamics of cytoskeletal assemblies.

Cell shape changes, as essential for movements at cellular and tissue length scales, are regulated by a set of relatively well-conserved molecular machines in the cell cytoskeleton. The fundamental question we seek to address is: how the diverse mechanical behavior at cellular scales can arise from a minimal set of cytoskeletal components. The aim of the proposed project is to establish predictive relations between cytoskeletal organization and cell shape changes, and to elucidate alternative mechanisms of cellular movement and stress generation. Such predictive models can guide future mutagenesis experiments and help realize the engineering potential of living materials. The project will be pursued in close collaboration with experimental groups for which UCL and the London area are ideal.

Candidates should have a high grade average Bachelor’s or Master’s degree (or equivalent) in Physics, Applied Mathematics, Engineering or a closely related discipline, and have affinity towards biological sciences. The successful candidate will gain expertise in theoretical and computational modeling in biology as well as acquire a broad knowledge of soft matter, cellular biophysics and statistical mechanics. Previous exposure to research is desirable.

Suitably qualified candidates interested in performing innovative research at the interface of physics and biology should send their CV, a brief statement of purpose (2 page maximum), and contacts of two references to Dr. Shiladitya Banerjee ([Email Address Removed]). The statement should highlight the candidate’s academic interests, past accomplishments and previous research experiences (if any). We strongly encourage early applications.

More information on Dr. Shiladitya Banerjee can be found at: http://home.uchicago.edu/~shiladityab
More information on the Department of Physics and Astronomy can be found at http://www.phys.ucl.ac.uk.
More information on the Institute for the Physics of Living Systems can be found at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/physics-living-systems.

Funding Notes

The annual stipend is £16,057 and tuition fees will be covered. Funding is available to UK and EEA candidates for a duration of 3.5 years.


1. J. Notbohm, S. Banerjee, K.J.C Utuje, J. Shin, J.P. Butler, J.J. Fredberg and M.C. Marchetti, PNAS in revision (2015)

2. P.W. Oakes, S. Banerjee, M.C. Marchetti and M.L. Gardel, Biophysical Journal 107, 825 (2014)

3. S. Banerjee and L. Giomi, Soft Matter 9, 5251 (2013).

4. A.F. Mertz, Y. Che, S. Banerjee, J. Goldstein, S. Revilla, C. Niessen, M.C. Marchetti, E.R. Dufresne and V. Horsley, PNAS 110, 842 (2013).

How good is research at University College London in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 110.53

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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