GV Shivashankar

Deputy Director, Mechanobiology Institute and IFOM-NUS Chair Professor

shiva.gvs@gmail.com | Curriculum vitae

Shivashankar is currently the Deputy Director of Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore. His laboratory is focused on understanding the role of cell mechanics on nuclear mechanotransduction and genome regulation in living cells using a multi-disciplinary approach. He carried out his PhD research at the Rockefeller University (1994-1999) and Postdoctoral research at NEC Research Institute, Princeton USA (1999-2000). He started his laboratory at the National Center for Biological Sciences, TIFR- Bangalore, India (2000-2009) before relocating to a tenured faculty position at the National University of Singapore in 2009. His scientific awards include; the Birla Science Prize (2006), The Swarnajayanthi Fellowship (2007) and was elected to the Indian Academy of Sciences (2010). More recently he also Heads the Joint Research Laboratory with FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology (IFOM), Milan, Italy and was appointed as an IFOM-NUS Chair Professor in 2014.

Mallika Nagarajan

Research Associate

With a PhD in Chemistry [Organic Synthesis] from the University Of Delhi, I was instrumental in teaching the subject for a decade before moving in to the ‘Little Red Dot”.

In short, it was a deeply practical innings, setting out to create and sustain informed, hopeful and respectful environments where learning can flourish. It concerned not just with knowing about things, but also with changing ourselves and the world we live in-(what we could call self-education).

With my research & teaching background, and with additional skill sets acquired, I became an active member of `Team GVS’ with an endeavour to accomplish more and learn more.

Putting it in a nutshell, I am aligned to detecting beauty in the DNA. And Yes, I paint the Chromosomes using the FISH Technique. Optimizing and customizing, if I may, the 3D-FISH technique [Fluorescence in Situ Hybridization] which is the basis of our samples prepared for the confocal imaging, we use it to study-

  • Spatial reorganization of functional chromosome architecture with cell-geometric constraints
  • Role of lamin A/C in 3D chromosome reorganization.

Work so far included enriching experiences involving painting chromosomes in different cell types, including ES cells through their differentiation & Gene FISH to probe localization of active/inactive genes in the intermingled regions.

Safety and Laboratory management is another strength which involves my role in Purchasing, Procurements & Processing for the Team; ensuring good housekeeping procedures and compliance with applicable university safety and health laws, guidelines and good

Jokhun Doorgesh Sharma (Kamal)

PhD Student

Whether it was because of my rich ‘scientific’ sachildhood or my unflinching preference for science in high school, I had known for a long time that I was to work in a scientific field. But when I started to apply for undergraduate programs, it was really hard to choose between Life Sciences, Physics or engineering. I eventually ended up doing Life Sciences at the National University of Singapore (NUS); but my soft spot for physical sciences persisted and I registered for quite a few random physics and engineering courses along the way.

My first encounter with formal research was during a summer internship at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), A*STAR. Following that I embarked on a one year undergraduate research project at NUS in which I helped set up an autogenic platform for differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). I was really fascinated by the whole experience and decided to undertake my Final Year Project in the same lab.

In my final semester, I enrolled for the undergraduate Mechanobiology course (LSM4234) and learned about the MechanoBiology Institute (MBI), where so much exciting biological research is being conducted using truly multi-disciplinary approaches. I was really excited by the prospect of working in Biology while still being in touch with Physics. Thus I joined Prof. Shivashankar’s lab as a Research Assistant in 2013 and after one year, I was very convinced this is where I want to be. The atmosphere is very conducive, members of Shiva’s lab are truly amazing people :-D and I am addressing questions which are intellectually very stimulating to me. Hence in Aug 2014 I joined Prof. Shivashankar’s group under the PhD program in Mechanobiology.

I have been studying how different extracellular matrix (ECM) constraints impinge on the stability of telomeres inside the nucleus. I observed that under certain matrix constraints, the telomeres can become very dynamic. Now I am interested in understanding the mechanism and biological significance of this instability, especially in the context of epigenetic reprogramming. Further, since telomeres are known to be hotspots for DNA damage, I want to study DNA damage and repair on highly dynamic telomeres. One question which has been bothering me for some time now is how most DNA damages (several tens of thousands per cell per day) are properly taken care of by intrinsic mechanisms, whereas once in a while, a cell will acquire damage in an irreparable manner and turn tumorous. Does mechanics play a role in that?

Karthik Damodaran

PhD Student

I am interested in understanding how complex biological systems work and how these intricate, yet well organised system, gets perturbed leading to pathological condition. I pursued my Bachelor of Engineering in Biotechnology at PES University, Bengaluru. During my undergraduate studies, I developed a keen interest towards understanding pathological condition such as cancer and in developing novel strategies to curb it. After my undergraduate studies, I joined Dr. Annapoorni Rangarajan’s Lab at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru as a Junior Research Fellow, where I was actively involved in understanding how cell functions at intracellular level by regulating various protein signalling and metabolic pathways. Further, I was also interested in understanding how cells interact with the extracellular matrix with an emphasis on how these are perturbed in pathological condition. My motivation to join Shiva’s lab was to add a new dimension to my thinking by looking at cell from the mechanobiology perspective.

Cells under normal physiological conditions experiences matrix constraints, compressive load and are also exposed to soluble cytokines in the extracellular microenvironment. I am currently investigating on how cell experiences these mechanical cues and alters its chromosomal architecture in response to it, which further has downstream consequences in terms of genome regulation. This will help us better understand how cell behaves in response to extracellular cues and will enable us to develop better strategies to curb diseased conditions.

Aninda Mitra


I am a Visiting Researcher in this Joint Research Laboratory at MBI, primarily from FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology (IFOM), Milan, Italy.

Having a background in Cell Signaling, I have been always fascinated about understanding how cell architecture/shape could define cell behavior/function by modulating signaling pathways, through cytoskeletal remodeling.

My current research explores the interplay between mechanical constraints and soluble cytokine signals, in governing cell behavior. I am studying how cell geometry and matrix-constraints modulate cytokine mediated signaling pathways, at single-cell levels, leading to “shape-dependent” cell behavior.

Bibhas Roy


I am a Research Fellow in Nuclear Mechanics & Genome Regulation Laboratory at MBI. In my doctoral research at Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, I have been understanding about the cellular mechanotransduction which specifically deals with cell membrane mechanosensors and consequent downstream cell responses. Eventually I have quite interested on nuclear mechanotransduction because for last two decades several path breaking findings in cellular mechanobiology has gained enormous interest to scientific community, but the nuclear mechanotransduction field remains quite elusive. This drive brought me to Prof Shivashankar’s Lab at MBI.

During differentiation and also reprogramming, cells accumulated multiple epigenetic changes, which leads to differential type of gene expression in different cell types. My current endeavor explores how nuclear geometry driven epigenetic changes leads to different cell type commitment.

Saradha Venkatachalapathy

PhD Student

I am a final year B.Tech student of biotechnology at SASTRA University, where I have been working as an undergraduate reseach trainee at the Chromatin Epigenetics lab.

In the lab, I learnt and contributed to studies involving the geometry of cells especially nuclear phenotypes and epigenetic states of cancer cells under different treatments. I became very interested studying in the fuctional consequences that accompany changes in nuclear and cellular geometry. This interest led me to join Shiva's lab to complete my final year year project.

In the lab, I will be working on a project that aims to quantify changes in nuclear morphology and position when placed under geometric contrains and compressive loads.

All alumni

Name of the PhD student and thesis title, year of PhD award.

  • AV Radhakrishnan
  • Yejun Wang
  • Nisha Ramdas
  • Ekta Makhija
  • Gautam Soni: Understanding physical interactions leading to structure-function dependence in biological systems (2006)
  • T.Roopa: Forcing self-assembled biomolecular structures: a study on membrane nanotubulation and chromatin fibers (2006) Bidisha Banerjee: Study of gene expression noise and chromatin organization in transcription (2007)
  • Deepak Sinha: Analysis of kinetic barriers in translation elongation and nuclear body dynamics (2007)
  • Dipanjan Bhattacharya: Probing histone dynamics and its functional implications in living cells (2007)
  • Aprotim Mazumder: Physical constraints due to cytoplasmic-nuclear elements impose a prestressed state on the eukaryotic cell nucleus (2008)
  • Feroz Meeran: Force induced chromatin remodeling in living cells (2008)
  • Abhishek Kumar: Emergence of nuclear prestress and its homeostatic balance during cellular differentiation and development (2013)
  • K.Venkatesan Iyer: Functional integration of mechano-signals to the chromatin organization in living cells (2013)
  • Shefali Talwar: Structural plasticity in chromatin organization and its coupling to gene expression during cellular differentiation (2013)
  • Soumya Gupta: Transitions in chromatin organization during T-cell differentiation (2013)
  • Shovamayee Maharana: Transcription dependent chromosome organization and nuclear body dynamics (2013)
  • Nikhil Jain: Impact of cell geometry on gene expression (2014)