Our Mercator Fellow

Rohit Pappu

Edwin H. Murty Professor of Engineering

Washington University in St. Louis
Department of Biomedical Engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1097
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

Phone: +1 314 935-7958
pappu@wustl.edu

Get to know his professional background

Academic Positions

January 2019 –current: Director of CSELS, Center for the Science and Engineering of Living Systems, Washington University in St. Louis

March 2015–current: Edwin H. Murty Professor of Engineering, McKelvey School of Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis

September 2012–December 2018: Director, Center for Biological Systems Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, School of Engineering & Applied Sciences

January 2013 –January 2018: Co-Director, Center for High Performance Computing, Washington University in St. Louis

January 2011 –current: Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, School of Engineering & Applied Sciences

March 2007 –current: Member, Hope Center for Neurodegenerative Disorders, Washington University School of Medicine

July 2007 –December 2010: Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, School of Engineering & Applied Sciences; Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics, Washington University School of Medicine

February 2009 –August2010: Director, Center for Computational Biology, Washington University School of Medicine

May 2002 –August 2010: Member, Center for Computational Biology, Washington University School of Medicine

September 2001 –June 2007: Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, School of Engineering & Applied Sciences; Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Washington University School of Medicine

Non-academic Affiliations

January 2019 –current: Member, Scientific Advisory Board, Dewpoint Therapeutics, Boston, MA and Dresden, Germany

 

Education and Training

Postdoctoral Scientist, 1998-2001
Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; Mentor: Professor George D. Rose

Postdoctoral Scientist, 1996-1998
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Washington University in Saint Louis, School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO; Mentor: Professor Jay W. Ponder

Ph.D., Biological Physics, 1992-1996
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Tufts University, Medford, MA
Advisor: Professor David L. Weaver (deceased), Thesis: Algorithms for modeling folding pathways of proteins.

M.S., Solid State Physics, 1990-1992
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Tufts University, Medford, MA

B.Sc., Honors in Physics, Mathematics, and Electronics, 1986-1989, St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore University, Bangalore, India

 

Professional Societies
  • Member, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Member, American Chemical Society(ACS)
  • Member, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers (AIMBE)
  • Member,  Biophysical  Society(BPS)and  subgroups  on  Intrinsically  Disordered  Proteins  (IDPs) and Biopolymers In Vivo(BIV)
  • Member, The Protein Society(TPS)
  • Member, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Honor Society

Learn about his research

Our research is focused on four topics: the molecular basis of neurodegeneration in Huntington’s disease (HD) and related disorders, phase transitions that lead to protein and RNA condensates driven by multivalent molecules, the biophysics of intrinsically disordered proteins, and design of responsive, protein-based biomaterials. Our work is driven by a blend of multiscale computer simulations, adaptations and developments of polymer physics theories, new ideas regarding the physics of living systems, in vitro and in cell experiments, and collaborations that enable molecular and cellular level investigations.

Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs): These proteins are abundant in eukaryotic proteomes and are implicated in important cellular functions that underlie transcriptional regulation and signal transduction. We have developed and used novel combinations of polymer physics theories, molecular simulations, and biophysical experiments to provide definitive descriptors for the relationships between information encoded in IDP sequences and their conformational properties. We are using de novo sequence design to modulate conformational properties of IDPs and quantify the impact of these changes on functions of specific IDPs and the distinct cellular processes they control.

Neurodegeneration: We work on connecting the driving forces for and the mechanisms of polyglutamine aggregation and phase separation to intracellular interactions that lead to neurodegeneration in HD and other polyglutamine expansion disorders. An emerging focus is on the modulation of aggregation and phase behavior by endogeneous networks of protein-protein interactions.

Phase transitions and intracellular compartmentalization: We have considerable interest in the problem of phase transitions that are controlled or influenced by multivalent proteins and RNA molecules. These phase transitions include phase separation, sol-gel transitions, the formation of liquid crystals, and the design of novel, stimulus responsive biomaterials. We are developing multiscale, multiresolution methods to understand the driving forces for, mechanisms of, and functions associated with membraneless organelles, also known as biomolecular condensates, that form as the result of phase transitions. This problem has direct relevance to spatiotemporal organization and information transduction within cells.

Molecular Engineering: We are building on our work pertaining to phase transitions and IDPs to develop, prototype, and deploy computational methods to predict phase behavior from amino acid sequence and advance the design of responsive peptide and protein-based biomaterials.