Program Overview

The MIT Physics of Living Systems Fellowship supports postdoctoral scholars in pursuing research in the non-equilibrium dynamics of living systems, from the molecular to population scales. Initial funding for this initiative was made possible by the Moore Foundation. The program aims to appoint two or three new Fellows per academic year for a three-year fellowship term each. Fellows are typically selected by means of an annual competition coordinated with the Pappalardo Fellowship competition in early September; Biophysics applicants for the Pappalardo Fellowship will be considered for both Fellowship programs. Candidates must be nominated by early September, and the complete application is then due a few weeks later.

All MIT Physics of Living Systems Fellows are provided with:

  • independence in selection and focus of research direction within the MIT Physics of Living Systems Group throughout their three-year fellowship term;
  • active mentoring and intellectual interactions fostered by the annual biophysics retreat, bi-weekly seminar series, and weekly luncheons with faculty during the academic year;
  • a competitive annual stipend (currently $62,000) with an annual cost-of-living increase, combined with $2,000 per year in discretionary research funds; and
  • MIT Medical Affiliate health insurance coverage for Fellows and their dependents.

Current Fellows

Todd Gingrich (PLS Fellow, 2015 – 2018)

Todd Gingrich is interested in the stochastic dynamics of living systems. Using computer simulations and tools from large deviation theory, he studies the importance of nonequilibrium fluxes and entropy production to escape processes and biological adaptation.


Sarah Marzen (PLS Fellow, 2016 – 2019)

Sarah’s graduate work was in information theory, in particular calculating information quantities like the predictive rate-distortion functions in a way that avoids a curse of dimensionality–that the number of typical trajectories grows exponentially with their length.


Alexandre Solon (PLS Fellow, 2015 – 2018)

Alexandre is interested in extending statistical mechanics to “active matter”, a class of non-equilibrium systems that includes most living systems, in which particles have a directed motion. During his Ph.D. he studied several of their aspects, from collective motion to pattern formation.


In addition to PLS and Pappalardo Fellows, the PLS also hosts other postdoctoral Fellows:

  • Shreyas Gokhale (HFSP Fellow)
  • Alfonso Perez-Escudero (HFSP Fellow)
  • Avihu Yona (HFSP Fellow)

Past Pappalardo and Physics of Living Systems Fellows

  • Margaret Gardel (Pappalardo Fellow, 2004 – 2005) is now an Associate Professor in the Physics Department at University of Chicago.
  • Guy Bunin (Pappalardo Fellow, 2013 – 2016) is now an Assistant Professor in the Physics Department at the Technion in Israel.
  • Jeff Gore (Pappalardo Fellow, 2007 – 2009) is now an Associate Professor here in the Department of Physics at MIT.
  • Kirill Korolev (Pappalardo Fellow, 2010-2013) is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at Boston University.
  • Yoav Lahini (Pappalardo Fellow, 2012 – 2015) is finishing his postdoctoral period at Harvard University.
  • Arpita Upadhyaya (Pappalardo Fellow, 2002 – 2005) is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Maryland, College Park.