Awarded in 2021
Home Department: Bioengineering
Faculty Advisors: Manu Prakash (Bioengineering) and Sanjiva Lele (Aeronatics & Astronautics and Mechanical Engineering)
Research Title: Extreme Biophysics: How Ultrafast Contractility Shapes Organelle Geometry (Topology) and Mechanics in Giant Cells
Research Description: Understanding extremes in biological systems provides novel insights into the fundamental limits of life. To understand cellular gigantism and intracellular adaptations under extreme forces, Spirostomum ambiguum, a giant ultrafast contractile ciliate with peak acceleration of 15g, was chosen the model organism. With transmitted electron microscopy, Ray recently discovered a novel “gyroid-like” architecture of rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER) around vacuolar meshwork, leading to new insights of how organelle topology and mechanics enables survival of extreme physiological conditions experienced during contraction. He generalizes his work to study the fundamental problem of ER shape and mechanism of energy dissipation in giant cells.