Faculty & Staff


Ashok Prasad
Assistant Professor
338 Scott Bioengineering
Ph. (970) 491-5175
Fax: (970) 491-7369
Email: ashokp@engr.colostate.edu
Webpage: http://www.engr.colostate.edu/~ashokp/
Email: ashok.prasad@colostate.edu


Dr. Prasad did his Ph.D. in theoretical soft condensed matter physics from Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass. in 2006. During his PhD he became interested in the interface between biology and the physical and engineering sciences. For his postdoctoral work he moved to a computational immunology laboratory in the department of Chemical Engineering at MIT. At MIT Dr Prasad worked on building computational models for understanding T cell behavior and development. Prior to his PhD in physics, Dr Prasad was a lecturer in economics in a college of the University of Delhi, India. He joined the faculty of Colorado State University in January 2009.

At Colorado State University, Dr Prasad’s research centers on developing quantitative and predictive models for molecular and cellular biology by using tools and methods from the engineering and physical sciences, in particular chemical kinetics and statistical mechanics. Most of the applied biological projects mentioned below are being conducted in close collaboration with experimentalists.
The main projects include:

1. Tissue Engineering:
(i) Understanding Bone Regeneration: Like all other tissues in the body, bone is a living substance that is continuously being created and being absorbed. Bone is also a tissue that can regenerate after a fracture. The fracture repair process takes place by a complex mechanism that operates at several length scales, involving chemical and other stimuli that induce the formation of osteoblasts and chondrocytes from mesenchymal stem cells, to intracellular interactions that actually shape the bone matrix. This project seeks to model some essential processes in bone regeneration, beginning with mesenchymal stem cell differentiation. It is a collaborative project with experimental labs at CSU. We hope to ultimately contribute to providing a rational basis for bone regeneration techniques.

(ii) How do cells respond to forces? We know that cells can sense and respond to forces, and this mechanotransduction is important in many biological phenomena, and plays a role in keeping us healthy. However, typically forces are just one of the external stimuli a cell receives, so cells have to integrate information from forces along with other signals. We are currently working on signaling models to understand the role of mechanotransduction in cells that are specialized for continuous or regular force sensing. Immune system cells, epithelial cells lining the walls of blood vessels, and mesenchymal stem cells are some examples.

2. Systems Biology for Biofuel development
Single celled photosynthetic organisms are our big hope for sustainable biofuel development since they do not compete with food crops. It is our view that our success in actually harnessing these organisms will ultimately depend upon how well we understand them! We are currently working on building quantitative, or semi-quantitative predictive models to understand a number of interlinked processes that are important, and exciting, from both the basic biology and the applied point of view. They include lipid biosynthesis in cyanobacteria and algae, and modeling the regulation of the photosynthetic process such as the cellular response to photoinhibition, and to changes in ambient light quality in those organisms. These projects are collaborations with experimental labs at CSU.

3. Systems Biology of Cancer and the Immune System
(i) At the level of the single cell, cancer is a disease of the signaling apparatus. We are presently studying some specific problems in cancer that are part of the general question: What are the characteristics of cancer causing mutations in the signaling network of the cell?

(ii) We are studying some aspects of cell signaling in T cells, especially related to T cell activation and to thymic selection. We are also developing a model to understand immune response in chronic infection, in collaboration with immunologists in the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, India.

4. Theoretical quantitative biology and biophysics
We are working on a few problems in general theoretical quantitative biology and biophysics.
(i) Spread of infection: Statistical mechanics models such as directed percolation on networks bear an uncanny resemblance to infection transfer in an epidemic. Along with collaborators in IIT, Mumbai, we are examining these physics models and what they can help us understand in dealing with infectious diseases.
(ii) Mathematical models of evolution: With collaborators at IIT Mumbai and elsewhere we are working on some specific problems in bacterial evolution.
(iii) Cellular motility in particular listeria motion due to actin polymerization.

We are currently recruiting graduate students, undergraduates and postdocs. Graduate students and undergraduates looking for exciting projects in systems biology in CSU, or interested in coming to CSU, are welcome to email me directly, or stop by if you are on campus. In particular I welcome students from engineering, computer sciences, physics and chemistry who are interested in using their quantitative knowledge to solve problems in biology. I also welcome biology students willing to learn mathematical modeling.