This Site

Training and Research Experiences in Nonlinear Dynamics

Dynamics of Living Cells

Arpita Upadhyaya

Projects in Dr. Upadhyaya's lab focus on how forces are generated and controlled in cells and how cellular dynamics and physical forces regulate their biochemical signaling function. Experiments examine how immune cells utilize cellular forces to detect and fight off infection or how cancer cells sense the mechanical properties of their environment. During the course of the project, students will learn the basics of culturing cells and performing high-resolution fluorescence microscopy on living cells to image the changing morphology of cells, the internal dynamics of cytoskeletal and signaling proteins, and examining the effect of substrate stiffness or topography on cellular behavior. Students will also learn the basics of MATLAB to perform computational image analysis for quantitative measurement of cell and protein dynamics.

A few projects that involve undergraduate researchers are:

  • Measuring cellular forces and stiffness using traction force microscopy and biochemical perturbations
  • Measuring cellular response to nano-topography using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to track the movement of the cell's edge, cytoskeletal proteins, and signalling molecules on surfaces of varying nano-topography
  • Single molecule imaging of biopolymer dynamics: Cells deposited on adhesive surfaces deform to adopt a characteristic shape that resembles a fried egg. Various parameters of the flow, such as velocity and spatial coherence, can be visualized by fluorescence microscopy of genetically-labeled actin molecules. Single-molecule imaging via a highly-sensitive camera is used to monitor the movement of small numbers of single actin molecules. Statistical characterization of the movement is used to determine how cellular proteins use the actin flow in order to move on the cell surface.

Additional information about Dr. Upadhyaya's research can be found at and by contacting Arpita Upadhyaya at 301-405-9939 or