The Faculty


Cytoskeletal dynamics and mechanics, cellular mechanotransduction, physics of biopolymer networks, cell adhesion and migration


Ph.D., Harvard University, 2004
Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund Fellow, 2005
Burroughs Wellcome Career Award, 2006
NIH Director's Pioneer Award, 2007
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, 2008
Packard Fellow, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, 2008
Early Excellence Award, American Asthma Foundation 2012

Research Interests

Experimental biophysics

We are interested in the physical properties of biological cells. The varied mechanical behavior of cells is determined by a dynamic and composite polymer network of > 100 proteins called the cytoskeleton. We develop tools to study the dynamic structure and biophysical behavior of these macromolecular assemblies at sub-micron length scales to study how forces generated by individual proteins are transmitted to cellular length scales.

Cytoskeletal materials also provide quite a number of interesting problems in soft condensed matter physics. In contrast to traditional flexible polymers or rigid rods, cytoskeletal polymers are semi-flexible and the energy required to bend the filament on micron length scales is comparable to thermal energy. The competition between enthalpic and entropic effects in the dynamics and deformation of semi-flexible networks lead to extremely rich and varied mechanical response of both entangled solutions and chemically cross-linked networks. In the living cell, these networks are driven far from equilibrium by molecular motors and proteins that regulate filament cross-linking and assembly. By reconstituting these networks from purified proteins in vitro, we can better understand these physical behaviors.

Select Papers

Actin filament alignment causes mechanical hysteresis in cross-linked networks.
Scheff DR, Redford SA, Lorpaiboon C, Majumdar S, Dinner A, Gardel ML. Soft Mater 2021 (link) (pdf)

Actin bundle architecture and mechanics regulate myosin II force generation.
Weirich KL, Stam S, Munro E, Gardel ML. Biophys J. 2021 (link) (pdf)

Machine learning active-nematic hydrodynamics.
Colen J, Han M, Zhang R, Redford SA, Lemma LL, Morgan L, Ruijgrok PV, Adkins R, Bryant Z, Dogic Z, Gardel ML, De Pablo JJ, Vitelli V. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2021 (link) (pdf)

Cell cycle-dependent active stress drives epithelia remodeling.
Devany J, Sussman DM, Yamamoto T, Manning ML, Gardel ML. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2021; 118 (10)e1917853118. (link)(pdf)

Spatiotemporal control of liquid crystal structure and dynamics through activity patterning.
Zhang R, Redford SA, Ruijgrok PV, Kumar N, Mozaffari A, Zemsky S, Dinner AR, Vitelli V, Bryant Z, Gardel ML, de Pablo JJ. Nature Materials. 2021; (link) (pdf)

Asymmetric Contraction of Adherens Junctions arises through RhoA and E-cadherin feedback.
Cavanaugh KE,Staddon M, Chmiel TA, Harmon B, Budnar S,Yap AS, Banerjee S,Gardel ML.(bioRxiv)

Dia1 Coordinates Differentiation and Cell Sorting in a Stratified Epithelium.
Harmon RM Devany J, Gardel  ML. (bioRxiv)

Evolutionarily diverse LIM domain-containing proteins bind stressed actin filaments through a conserved mechanism. Winkelman JD, Anderson CA, Suarez C, Kovar DR, Gardel  ML. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2020; 117(41):25532-25542. (PMID: 32989126) (pdf)

Adaptive viscoelasticity of epithelial cell junctions: from models to methods.
Cavanaugh KE, Staddon MF, Banerjee S, Gardel ML. Curr Opin Genet Dev. (link)

Dynamin regulates the dynamics and mechanical strength of the actin cytoskeleton as a multifilament actin-bundling protein.
Zhang R, Lee DM, Jimah JR, Gerassimov N, Yang C, Kim S, Luvsanjav D, Winkelman J, Mettlen M, Abrams ME, Kalia R, Keene R, Pandey P, Ravaux B, Kim JH, Ditlev J, Zhang G, Rosen MK, Frost A, Alto NM, Gardel ML, Schmid SL, Svitkina TM, Hinshaw JE, Chen EH. Nat Cell Biol. 2020. (link)

Tuning shape and internal structure of protein droplets via biopolymer filaments.
Scheff DR, Weirich KL, Dasbiswas K, Patel A, Vaikuntanathan S, Gardel ML. Soft Matter. 2020. (link) (pdf)

Nucleation and Shape Dynamics of Model Nematic Tactoids Around Adhesive Colloids.
Ludwig NB, Weirich  KL, Alster E, Witten TA, Gardel ML, Dasbiswas K, Vaikuntanathan S. J Chem Phys. 2020; 152:084901 (link) (pdf)

Optogenetic Control of RhoA to Probe Subcellular Mechanochemical Circuitry.
Cavanaugh KE, Oakes PW, Gardel ML. Curr Prot Cell Biol. 2020. (PMID: 32031760) (pdf)

Tuning Molecular Motor Transport Through Cytoskeletal Filament Network Organization.
Scholz M, Weirich KL, Gardel ML, Dinner AR. Soft Matter. 2020. (PMID: 32016200) (pdf)

RhoA Mediates Epithelial Cell Shape Changes via Mechanosensitive Endocytosis.
Cavanaugh KE, Staddon MF, Munro E, Banerjee S, Gardel ML. Dev Cell. 2020; 52(2):152-166. (PMID: 31883774) (pdf)