Mohapatra Group

Central Question

Just like human bodies have organs to complete various biological functions, living cells have distinguishable subcellular parts called organelles, each specifically designed for its own specialized task. These organelles have been observed since the dawn of microscopy, but only recently have we developed experimental tools to begin to investigate how they attain their characteristic shapes and sizes, and how that relates to their specific functions. And although we know the engineering principles required to build bridges that spread over tens of miles, our knowledge about what controls the size of many biological structures is rather limited.

Using theory and simulations, and in collaboration with several experimental groups, the Mohapatra group studies the key principles required to assemble structures inside cells - a world smaller than the width of a human hair.

Specific questions which are of current interest:

  • Mechanisms used by the cells to assemble and/or maintain the size of organelles that are sharing a common pool. E.g. Nucleoli in worm cells. 
  • The synergy between different cellular factors to ensure a fast exchange of molecular components
  • Strategies used by cells to share resources amongst competing structures. E.g. actin cables and patches in yeast cells.

About Lishibanya Mohapatra

headshot of Lishibanya MohapatraI use theory and modeling to study puzzles in the domain of Quantitative Biology. My research has focused on finding an answer to the key question: how do cells measure and control the size of their organelles? I use tools from statistical mechanics and computational techniques, and observations from recent experiments to model the growth of various biological structures and work with my experimental collaborators to design experiments to verify the predictions of the models. Examples of organelles that are points of focus are actin cables in budding yeast cells, flagella in Chlamydomonas, and more recently, the Nucleoli.


Published Review
Dill, Ken A. "Annual Reviews of Biophysics." Rev. of Design Principles of Length Control of Cytoskeletal Structures, by Lishibanya Mohapatra, et al. Design Principles of Length Control of Cytoskeletal Structures 26 Apr. 2016: 85-116. Web.
Journal Paper
Fai, Thomas F, et al. "Length regulation of multiple flagella that self-assemble from a shared pool of components." eLife. (2019): 1-31. Web.
Mohapatra, Lishibanya, et al. "The Limiting-Pool Mechanism Fails to Control the Size of Multiple Organelles." Cell systems. (2017): 559-567. Web.
MOHAPATRA, LISHIBANYA, Bruce L. Goode, and Jane Kondev. "Antenna mechanism of Length control of actin cables." PLOS computational biology. (2015): 1-16. Web.

Active Collaborations

My philosophy on scientific collaboration:

I place myself firmly in the camp of interdisciplinary collaborations and cooperation. I enjoy working with people with different expertise, focus, and interests. Students are considered equal collaborators in my group and open communication and creativity are strongly encouraged.

headshot of Pete Miller

Pete Miller
(fourth-year Applied Mathematics/Physics double major)

headshot of Michaela Cohen

Michaela Cohen
(fourth-year BS/MS Physics program)

headshot of Chloe Shiff

Chloe Shiff
(fourth-year, Applied Mathematics/Biology major)

Not Pictured:

  • Lena Burdick, fourth-year Brandeis Undergraduate
  • Rabeya Hussaini, Brandeis' 20 Physics major, Future graduate student, NYU
  • Prathitha Kar, Graduate student, Harvard University
  • Aldric Rosario, Graduate student, Brandeis University
  • Thomas Fai, Brandeis University
  • Jane Kondev, Brandeis University
  • Shashank Sekhar, Emory University
  • Steph Weber, McGill University

Other Interests

Lishi is a member of Women in Science and Engineering (WISe) at RIT. 

" As a member of WISe at RIT, I aim to support women faculty and students by organizing and participating in outreach events to inspire future generations of women scientists."

Lishibanya Mohapatra was a Science Communication Fellow and member of the Brandeis SciComm Lab 2018-2020.

"As Communication Fellow, I offered individual coaching, organized targeted workshops, and a range of initiatives to support the scientific community with the skills they need to communicate their scientific endeavors to any audience in written, spoken or visual form."

Lishi was the Co-Director of Quantitative Biology Research Community (QBReC) at Brandeis University  2016-2020.

"QBReC is a HHMI-funded program for Brandeis undergraduate students, which gives them a unique opportunity to experience academic environment by facilitating research opportunities with Brandeis faculty who are working at the interface of the physical and life sciences. Research projects were designed and led by student advisors, and I mentored both the advisors and undergraduate students throughout the process. In collaboration with the Experiential Learning Group at Brandeis, I developed team-building activities with a focus on cultivating a community of like-minded scholars."  

Lishi has been a Research Assistant at the Physiology and Physical Biology of the Cell summer courses at Marine Biological Laboratory in Wood's Hole, MA.

"I advised biology graduate and post-doctoral students on how to incorporate modeling and programming in their research to tackle problems in biology using MATLAB."


Call for Students

"Mohapatra group is always looking for motivated students to work with. Curiosity and open communication are the most important prerequisites, with having a desire or skill to code a close second. If interested, please contact Lishi via her email."