Karen E. Kasza


220C S.W. Mudd
Mail Code 4703

Tel(212) 851-7677
Fax(212) 854-3304

Karen Kasza utilizes approaches from engineering, biology, and physics to understand and control how cells self-organize into functional tissues with precise mechanical and structural properties.  A major focus of her work is to uncover fundamental physical and biological mechanisms underlying tissue morphogenesis—the generation of shape and form in biological materials. 

Research Interests

Cell and tissue biomechanics, morphogenesis, self-organization, mechanobiology, biophysics, soft materials, developmental biology.

The goal is to both use this fundamental understanding to shed light on human health and disease and to leverage this understanding to build functional tissues in the lab. Currently, her lab is using the fruit fly as a model organism to investigate how cells build tissues during embryo development. To explore how mechanical factors influence this biological process, Kasza combines confocal imaging of cell and tissue movements with biophysical studies of cell and tissue mechanics. She also develops new tools to measure and control the mechanical forces generated by living cells. In the past, she used approaches from soft matter physics to elucidate the physical origins of elasticity in cytoskeletal biopolymer-based materials and used developmental biology approaches to identify a new mechanism controlling where and when forces are generated within epithelial tissues. Due to the complex interplay of physical and biological processes during morphogenesis, Kasza collaborates closely with a range of scientists and engineers, including developmental biologists and physicists.

Kasza received a BA in physics and mathematics from the University of Chicago in 2003 and a PhD in applied physics from Harvard University in 2010. She was the recipient of a Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Fellowship in 2011 and a Burroughs Welcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface in 2013.


  • Postdoctoral fellow, Sloan Kettering Institute, 2010-2015


  • Assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Columbia University, 2016-


  • American Physical Society (APS)
  • American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)
  • Genetics Society of America (GSA)
  • Society for Experimental Mechanics (SEM)          


  • Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professorship, 2016                                                           
  • Burroughs Welcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface, 2013
  • Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2011                         
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, 2007                                             
  • National Defense Science and Engineering Fellowship, 2004                          
  • University of Chicago Student Marshal, 2003                             
  • Argonne National Laboratory-University of Chicago Scholarship, 1999


  • Kasza KE, Farrell DL, Zallen JA. Spatiotemporal control of epithelial remodeling by regulated myosin phosphorylation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 111(32):11732, 2014.
  • Kasza KE, Broedersz CP, Koenderink GH, Lin YC, Messner W, Millman EA, Nakamura F, Stossel TP, Mackintosh FC, Weitz DA. Actin filament length tunes elasticity of flexibly cross-linked actin networks. Biophysical Journal. 99(4):1091-1100, 2010.
  • Kasza KE, Koenderink GH, Lin YC, Broedersz CP, Messner W, Nakamura F, Stossel TP, MacKintosh FC, Weitz DA. Nonlinear elasticity of stiff biopolymers connected by flexible linkers. Physical Review E. 79(4 Pt 1):041928, 2009.
  • Kasza KE, Nakamura F, Hu S, Kollmannsberger P, Bonakdar N, Fabry B, Stossel TP, Wang N, Weitz DA. Filamin A is essential for active cell stiffening but not passive stiffening under external force. Biophysical Journal.  96(10):4326-35, 2009.
  • Kasza KE, Zallen JA. Dynamics and regulation of contractile actin-myosin networks in morphogenesis. (Review) Current Opinion in Cell Biology. 23(1):30-8, 2011.
  • Kasza KE, Rowat AC, Liu J, Angelini TE, Brangwynne CP, Koenderink GH, Weitz DA. The cell as a material. (Review) Current Opinion in Cell Biology. 19(1):101-107, 2008.