Prof. Madan Rao, who has been an adjunct professor with the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) for more than 15 years, has recently been appointed as a full-time faculty member at the Centre. Prof. Rao began his association with NCBS in December 1999, when he joined the Raman Research Institute as an Associate Professor. His appointment as an adjunct faculty member at NCBS stemmed from a highly productive collaboration with Prof. Satyajit Mayor involving the dynamics of plasma membrane composition, which is still ongoing.
"I remember Madan arriving at the TIFR Centre when NCBS was just starting up at the IISc campus. He started our conversation by telling me how engaging with soft matter and theory was a worthwhile endeavour, if I ever wanted to understand the membrane in living cells. He threw a soft-toy on the roof of my office as if to emphasize the ubiquitous nature of 'soft matter', and whilst we waited for this toy to drop, our conversation began - the toy failed to drop and may still be stuck to the roof of my old office - and my conversations with Madan continue to this date. It has been a wonderful collaboration and he was absolutely spot on about how soft-matter theory in the context of the active mechanics of driven systems has taken our understanding of the membrane of living cells to new levels. I am very happy that he has decided to move lock, stock and barrel(s) to NCBS. Here, we welcome him warmly and hope his science will flourish resoundingly, and influence many more areas of biology, as he helps to steer the Simons Centre for the Study of Living Machines.", says Satyajit Mayor, the Director of NCBS.
"Madan has long been our prototypical woolly theorist who is anything but woolly when it comes to rigorous theory. Much to our mutual benefit, he was so good as to adopt us at NCBS, and bring his enormous insights to understanding biological systems. It is great to now adopt him back, as a formal member of our faculty. He has long been so in all but name",
says Upinder Bhalla, Dean of NCBS.
Apart from his scientific association with Mayor, Prof. Rao has worked on a variety of projects involving the physics of active, evolving systems across scales - from biomolecules and sub-cellular structures to cells and tissues. His forte lies in the theoretical approaches he takes to understand the physical and chemical principles underlying biological organisation. He was the founding member of the Theory group, currently the Simon's Centre for the Study of Living Machines at NCBS, where he has been instrumental in mentoring younger colleagues and advising students in theoretical approaches to studying biological phenomena.
"Madan's presence at NCBS has nucleated a broader group of theorists who are making links between biology, physics, and computer science. His sensibilities and taste in science have subtly influenced many of us, and set the tone for how the Simons Centre for the Study of Living Machines functions. Fundamental to this is the idea that physicists must be doing great physics, and computer scientists must be doing great computer science, while simultaneously engaging with the most difficult questions in biology", says Mukund Thattai, a member of the Faculty at NCBS.
The work currently being carried out by his group ranges across subjects such as understanding the active, composite nature of cell membranes, investigating the active mechanics of nuclear and chromatin organisation, organelle biogenesis and remodelling and studying the dynamics of patterning in tissue morphogenesis
To read more about Prof. Rao's work, please visit: https://www.ncbs.res.in/faculty/madan