- Robert T. Haslam (1911) Professor in Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Professor of Professor of Physics and Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Founding Director of (IMES) Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Founding Steering Committee Member of Ragon Institute of MIT, MGH, and Harvard University
Arup K. Chakraborty’s career has been focused on work that brings together approaches from different disciplines to understand diverse phenomena and harness that knowledge toward practical ends. He is currently the Robert T. Haslam Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Professor of Physics and Chemistry at MIT. He served as the founding Director of MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) from February 2012 to January 2018. 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 and Harvard. After obtaining his PhD in chemical engineering and postdoctoral studies, 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, Chakraborty moved to MIT. After an early career in guiding the engineering of polymers and catalysts using quantum mechanical calculations, since 2000, Chakraborty’s work has largely focused on bringing together immunology and the physical and engineering sciences; more specifically, the intersection of statistical mechanics and immunology. His interests span T cell signaling, T cell development and repertoire, and a mechanistic understanding of HIV evolution, antibody evolution, and vaccine design. Since 2016, he has also been deeply interested in the role of phase separation in gene regulation. Chakraborty’s work at the intersection of disciplines has been recognized by numerous honors, including the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the E.O. Lawrence Medal for Life Sciences from the US DOE, Guggenheim Fellowship, the Allan P. Colburn and Professional Progress awards from the AIChE, a Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar award, and a National Young investigator award. Chakraborty was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering for completely different bodies of work. He is also a member of the National Academy of Medicine, making him one of 23 individuals who are members of all three branches of the US National Academies, and the only person trained as a physical scientist/engineer whose work is purely rooted in theory/computation on this list. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and serves on the US Defense Science Board. Chakraborty has received four teaching awards at Berkeley and MIT.
For two decades, Chakraborty’s lab has focused on understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of the adaptive immune response to pathogens, and then to harness this knowledge to help design better vaccines and therapies. Current interests in immunology can be divided into three broad categories: understanding the network of biochemical interactions that enable T cells to translate engagement of membrane receptors to cognate ligands in to functional responses, how T cell development results in T cells that are specific for unknown and emerging pathogens, and the human immune response to HIV and influenza. The goal of the last effort is to guide the rational design of vaccines and therapies against highly mutable infectious disease-causing agents. Another recent focus is the role of phase separation in eukaryotic gene regulation. In particular, how these droplets form at specific genomic loci, and how their functions are regulated by non-equilibrium processes in cells. Chakraborty’s work represents a crossroad of the physical and life sciences. A hallmark of Chakraborty’s research is the close synergy and collaboration between his lab’s theoretical and computational studies (rooted in statistical physics) and investigations led by experimental and clinical biologists.
A full list of Professor Chakraborty’s publications can be found on his website.