Photo of Masoud  Nickaeen, Ph.D.

Masoud Nickaeen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology
Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling
Academic Office Location:

UConn Health
263 Farmington Avenue
Farmington, CT 06030
Phone: 860-679-4231
Email: nickaeen@uchc.edu

My research is at the interface of mathematical modeling and computational tools development for the study of cellular processes that rely on actin cytoskeleton remodeling and dynamics. I have several ongoing collaborations with the labs of Dr. Slepchenko and Dr. Loew at CCAM at UConn Health, and external experimental labs in chemical/biomedical engineering, and in cellular and developmental biology.

Education
DegreeInstitutionMajor
B.Sc.Persian Gulf UniversityMechanical Engineering - Thermofluids
M.Sc.K.N. Toosi University of TechnologyMechanical Engineering - Energy Conversion
M.E.Rutgers, The State University of New JerseyMechanical Engineering - Fluid Mechanics
Ph.D.TU DortmundApplied Mathematics

Post-Graduate Training
TrainingInstitutionSpecialty
PostdoctoralUConn HealthPostdoctoral Research Fellow, Modeling Cell Mechanics and Migration

Awards
Name of Award/HonorAwarding Organization
School of Engineering Fellowship, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace EngineeringRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Scholarship, Graduate School of Energy Efficient Production and LogisticsFaculty of Mechanical Engineering, TU Dortmund

        I am an applied mathematician with training in computational biology and biophysics. I study the role of biomechanics, and its regulation by biochemical reactions, in cell function. I am interested in understanding cellular processes that lead to or rely on the motion and deformation of the cells, their organelles or subcellular structures. Cell shape maintenance and changes, such as during cell division, endocytosis and migration, and tissue morphogenesis, are fundamental to development, homeostasis, and disease. These shape changes are dictated by actin cytoskeletal dynamics coupled to the plasma membrane, and controlled by myriad, sometimes interconnecting, regulatory pathways. In addition to this complexity, the inherently transient, and, in most cases, the diffraction limited nature of these processes make experiments challenging to perform and interpret. Mathematical modeling is therefore an indispensable complementary approach. Biophysical models, specifically, allow us to integrate empirical measurements of protein abundances and dynamics, kinetic parameters, and physical parameters describing mechanical properties of the cells and their force-bearing components. These models have predictive potential, and are used in dialogue with biological experimentation to interrogate cell shape and cytoskeletal organization. Models are also used as surrogates for experimentation, in cases where reliable measurements are lacking, to determine biophysical parameters of the cell.
        Numerical simulation of these models often requires sophisticated computational tools and lead to computationally complex/expensive simulations. I design/reuse numerical algorithms and software tools to run simulations more efficiently and with sufficient accuracy. Importantly, I am committed to generate comprehensive algorithms for modeling complex cell dynamics, and to make them freely accessible to a broader biomedical community, by integrating these new tools to the Virtual Cell (vcell.org) software platform.
        Over the past 6 years, I have collaborated with several experimental/theoretical labs to build systems-level mechanistic models of several actin-based cellular processes. Current/past projects include:
1- Simulation of the mechanics of actin assembly during clathrin-mediated endocytosis in yeast
2- Modeling actomyosin cortex dynamics during animal cell cytokinesis
3- Design of computational algorithms for modeling cell shape changes, and enhancing the VCell (vcell.org) dyanmic spatial modeling capabilities
4- Developing models of actin-based motility and self-polarization in epithelial fish keratocyte cells


        For over a decade, from 2007-2018, I have been involved in algorithm and methods development for modeling fluid flow and heat transfer phenomena for engineering applications. In doing this line of research, I have used a plethora of open-source and commercial packages, numerical methods, model building libraries, solvers, and post-processing tools for visualization and analysis of the results. I have also developed expertise in computer programming and scripting (C, C++, Fortran 90, Matlab, Python, Bash, Perl), software development (prototyping, testing, debugging, version control software), and worked with high performance computing clusters for both parallel processing (distributed and shared memory) and job submission/maintenance, as well as with high-speed and large data storage technologies.

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