Arup Chakraborty, PhD

Lab Info:

Principal Investigator: Arup Chakraborty, PhD

Office/Location: MIT E19-502C

Phone: (617) 253-3890


Category: Members

Arup K. Chakraborty is the Robert T. Haslam Professor of Chemical Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, and Biological Engineering at MIT. He is the founding Director of MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. He is also a founding steering committee member of the Ragon Institute of MIT, MGH, and Harvard, and an Associate Member of the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard.


After obtaining his undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (Kanpur), PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Delaware, and postdoctoral studies at the University of Minnesota, he joined the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley in December 1988. He rose through the ranks, and ultimately served as the Warren and Katherine Schlinger Distinguished Professor and Chair of Chemical Engineering, Professor of Chemistry, and Professor of Biophysics at Berkeley. He was also Head of Theoretical and Computational Biology at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


In September 2005, Arup moved to MIT. His entire career has been focused on research at the intersection of disciplines. After a successful early career working on molecular engineering of catalysts and polymers, in 2000 Arup turned his attention to immunology. The central theme of his research over the past sixteen years is the development and application of theoretical/computational approaches, rooted in physics and engineering, to aid the quest for mechanistic principles in immunology, and then harness this understanding to aid the design of vaccines against mutable pathogens (like HIV).


A characteristic of his work is the impact of his studies on experimental immunology and clinical studies (he collaborates extensively with leading immunologists). Chakraborty has especially contributed to our understanding of T cell signaling, T cell development and pathogen specificity, the immunological vulnerabilities of HIV and rational vaccine design.


Arup’s work at the interface of the physical, life, and engineering sciences has been recognized by many honors that include a NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the E.O. Lawrence Memorial Award for Life Sciences, the Allan P. Colburn and Professional Progress awards of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar award, a Miller Research Professorship, and a National Young Investigator award. Arup was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering for different bodies of work. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He serves on the US Defense Science Board.


Research Areas

Our group works on developing and applying theoretical and computational approaches (rooted in statistical mechanics) to study complex systems involving many interacting components.


A central focus of our laboratory is understanding the adaptive immune response to pathogens. T lymphocytes (T cells) are the orchestrators of the adaptive immune response. We are studying how T cells “hunt” for antigen as they migrate in lymphoid tissue, the molecular processes that enable them to discriminate between “self” and “non-self” with extraordinary sensitivity, and the signaling events that ultimately enable T cell activation and the mounting of an immune response. Each of these processes is the result of stochastic and cooperative dynamic events involving many cellular components.


The inherent cooperativity of the pertinent processes (which occur over a broad spectrum of length and time scales) makes it difficult to intuit underlying mechanisms from observations of just a few experimental reporters. We develop and apply statistical mechanical approaches to study the dynamic processes pertinent to T cell activation.


A special hallmark of these efforts is the close synergy and collaboration between our computational studies and experimental investigations in the world’s leading immunology laboratories in medical schools. Our work in this area represents a crossroad of engineering, the physical sciences, and the life sciences, and addresses fundamental questions that are relevant to the development of intervention protocols for combating infectious diseases, autoimmune disorders, and acts of bioterrorism. Our group is also interested in cell membrane biophysics and biopolymers.

Selected Publications

“CD4 Coordinates Lck Accumulation in the Immunological Synapse: Implications for the Sensitivity of T Cells to Antigen”, with Q. Li et al.,Nature Immunology5, 791 (2004).


“The Immunological Synapse Balances T Cell Receptor Signaling and Degradation”, with K.H. Lee et al., Science302, 1218 (2003).


“In Silico Models in Molecular and Cellular Immunology: Successes, Promises, and Challenges”, with A.S. Shaw and M.L. Dustin, Nature Immunology4, 933 (2003).


“An Effective Membrane Model for the Immunological Synapse”, with S. Raychaudhuri and M. Kardar, Phys. Rev. Lett.92, 208101 (2003).


“Synaptic Pattern Formation during Cellular Recognition”, with S.Y. Qi et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci.98, 6548 (2001).


“Disordered Heteropolymers: Models for Biomimetic Polymers and Polymers with Frustrating Quenched Disorder”, Physics Reports342, 1 (2000).