Karen Kasza's research focuses on understanding the principles underlying the mechanics, self- organization, and morphogenesis of living tissues—across molecular, cellular, and tissue lengthscales. The goal is to shed light both on how cells change shape, move, and grow to build functional tissues and also on how defects in those behaviors contribute to human birth defects and tumor metastasis. She is currently studying these questions in the Drosophila (fruit fly) embryo because it allows a powerful combination of experimental approaches: quantitative in vivo live imaging, micromechanical studies, and genetics.
Karen received a Ph.D. in Applied Physics in 2010 at Harvard University, where she investigated the physical origins of elasticity in biopolymer gels, with a focus on cytoskeletal actin networks. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Developmental Biology Program at the Sloan Kettering Institute, she studied how mechanical forces drive cell movements and shape multicellular tissues during fruit fly development. In recognition of her work, Karen received a Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Fellowship in 2011, a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface in 2013, and an NSF CAREER in 2018.
M. Herrera-Perez and K.E. Kasza. Biophysical control of the cell rearrangements and cell shape changes that build epithelial tissues. Current Opinion in Genetics & Development 2018; 51:88-95.
K.E. Kasza, D.L. Farrell, J.A. Zallen. Spatiotemporal control of epithelial remodeling by regulated myosin phosphorylation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2014; 111(32):11732.
K.E. Kasza, J.A. Zallen. Dynamics and regulation of contractile actin-myosin networks in morphogenesis. Current Opinion in Cell Biology. 2010; 23(1): 30.
K.E. Kasza, C.P. Broedersz, G.H. Koenderink, Y.C. Lin, W. Messner, E.A. Millman, F. Nakamura, T.P. Stossel, F. C. MacKintosh, D. A. Weitz. Actin filament length tunes elasticity of flexibly cross-linked actin networks. Biophysical Journal. 2010; 99:1091-1100.
K.E. Kasza, G.H. Koenderink, Y.C. Lin, C.P. Broedersz, W. Messner, F. Nakamura, T.P. Stossel, F.C. MacKintosh, D.A. Weitz. Nonlinear elasticity of stiff biopolymers connected by flexible linkers. Physical Review E. 2009; 96:4326-35.
K.E. Kasza, F. Nakamura, S. Hu, P. Kollmannsberger, N. Bonakdar, B. Fabry, T.P. Stossel, N. Wang, D.A. Weitz. Filamin A is essential for active cell stiffening but not passive stiffening under external force. Biophysical Journal. 2009; 79:041928.
K.E. Kasza, D. Vader, S. Köster, N. Wang, and D.A. Weitz. Imaging techniques for measuring cell materials properties. Live Cell Imaging, 2nd Edition, D. Spector, J. Swedlow, and R. Goldman eds., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. 2009.
K.E. Kasza, A.C. Rowat, J. Liu, T.E. Angelini, C.P. Brangwynne, G.H. Koenderink and D.A. Weitz. The cell as a material. Current Opinion in Cell Biology. 2007; 19:101-107.