Shalek Jointly Recruited by MIT and Ragon

Shalek Jointly Recruited by MIT and Ragon

Sep 10

The Ragon Institute, together with the Institute for Medical Engineering & Science (IMES) and the Chemistry Department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), are pleased to announce that Dr. Alex K. Shalek has accepted a joint position as an Associate Member at the Ragon Institute, an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and a Core Member of IMES.


The Ragon Institute is particularly interested in fostering non-traditional partnerships which incorporate technology to speed biological research; therefore, Dr. Shalek’s research is an ideal match, being focused on the development and application of new experimental approaches that will facilitate understanding of how cells collectively perform systems-level functions in both health and disease.


For the past three years, Shalek has been a Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab of Prof. Hongkun Park at Harvard University, where he also received his Ph.D. in Chemical Physics. There he developed nano- and micro-scale tools with which he was able to systematically dissect the differentiation of Th17 T helper cells and determine factors governing heterogeneity in the dendritic cell response to pathogens. During this time, he has also worked closely with Dr. Aviv Regev at the Broad Institute.


In collaboration with the Ragon Institute, Shalek plans to leverage recent advances in nanotechnology and chemical biology to establish a series of core, cross-disciplinary platforms that will collectively enable scientists to extensively profile and precisely control cells and their interactions within the context of complex systems.


With respect to biological applications, Shalek’s research will focus on how cellular heterogeneity and cell-to-cell communication drive ensemble-level decision-making in the immune system. His emphasis will be on the dynamics of “two-body” interactions, including those between host cells & HIV and the innate immune & adaptive immune systems.


“I hope that our work will yield generally useful tools,” said Dr. Shalek. “and maybe even change the way in which we think about cells, their interactions, disease and therapeutics. Ideally, we’d help create a new paradigm for understanding, correcting, and designing systems-level cellular behaviors in multicellular organisms.”


“We are absolutely delighted to have Alex joining our team” said Dr. Bruce Walker, Director of the Ragon Institute. “The intersection of engineering and biology represents an exciting new frontier that is sure to speed efforts to harness the immune system to more effectively combat human diseases, and Dr. Shalek is at the very forefront of this field.”


Dr. Shalek will split his effort between MIT and the Ragon Institute, having labs at both institutions.