New Faculty Profile: Assistant Professor Arnab Mukherjee

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

UC Santa Barbara Chemical Engineering welcomed Assistant Professor Arnab Mukherjee to the department in summer 2017.

Professor Mukherjee's research focuses on engineering proteins, often with unusual properties, (such as paramagnetism, water diffusion, and photoreception) to develop genetic reporters for imaging cell function in challenging environments – specifically, in O2-starved milieu or deep inside living tissues.

“A great deal of what we know about how cells function hinges on our ability to directly observe the inner workings of the cell using fluorescent reporter proteins originally discovered in the jellyfish,” says Mukherjee. However, these standard jellyfish proteins fail to perform when deployed in anaerobic cells (such as those comprising our gut microbiome), or deep inside live animal models of disease, injury, and therapy. 

A central goal of Mukherjee’s research is to illuminate this largely invisible “dark matter” of biology, by developing new genetic reporters that function in low-O2 conditions or in the context of deep-seated tissues. To achieve this goal, the Mukherjee Lab applies protein engineering to develop new genetic reporters and sensors that enable O2-independent fluorescence imaging or deep tissue penetrant magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The biomolecular imaging agents developed in the Mukherjee Lab will be useful for studying a wide range of problems encompassing cancer, neurobiology, degenerative diseases, infections, anaerobic microbiology, and immunotherapy.

“As molecular imaging is an inherently multidisciplinary field, I am looking forward to leveraging UCSB’s culture of interdisciplinary science, through collaborations with the Center for Bioengineering (CBE), Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB), and Psychology and Brain Sciences, to identify new and challenging avenues for applying anaerobic and deep-tissue imaging reporters,” says Mukherjee. “In addition, I am really excited about training students in chemical engineering to think creatively, inclusively, and laterally, to engineer new frontiers in biomolecular engineering and molecular imaging."   

Professor Mukherjee comes to UC Santa Barbara from Mikhail Shapiro’s Group at the California Institute of Technology where he was the James G. Boswell Postdoctoral Fellow. Prior to that, he received his PhD in Chemical Engineering with Charles Schroeder at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.Tech./M.Tech. in Biotechnology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

For more information about Professor Mukherjee's research, please feel free to email him at      

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