Leonid Mirny

Professor of Medical Engineering and Science, and Physics
Focuses on biological physics and system biology. His multi-disciplinary approach combines first-principle physics with the analysis of genomic data.
Research Areas

Research Interests

The Mirny lab combines quantitative, typically physics-rooted, approaches with analysis of genomics data to address fundamental problems in biology, most recently they focused on two problems:

  1. higher-order chromatin structure;
  2. evolution of cancer during neoplastic progression.

Studies of the Mirny lab on chromosomes aim to characterize 3D architecture of the genome and processes that lead to its organization and reorganization in the cell cycle and development. Works of the Mirny lab on cancer aim at understanding the role of multiple “passenger” genetic events, such as individual mutations and chromosomal alterations, in cancer progression.

MIT Prof. Leonid Mirny on the levels of complexity in biology, Fokker–Planck equations, and structure of interacting molecules’ network.
Courtesy of Serious Science | YouTube

Biographical Sketch

Leonid Mirny received his PhD in Biophysics from Harvard University. After a few years as a Junior Fellow at Harvard Society of Fellows, he was appointed to the MIT Faculty in 2001, joining the MIT Health Sciences and Technology Division and the Department of Physics. Prof. Mirny teaches classes in Statistical Physics in Biology, Quantitative Genomics, and a freshman seminar in Quantitative Biology. He is working to understand the human genome in 3D with his team at MIT in collaboration with the Dekker Lab at UMass Medical School. Using new data uncovered via Chromosome Conformation Capture (Hi-C) technology and computer simulations, the collaborators explore how the genome is organized inside a cell.

In 2015, Mirny became a co-director of the new Center for 3D Structure and Physics of the Genome at UMass Medical School and MIT, funded by the National Institutes of Health’s 4D Nucleome Program. The program, initiated by Director of the NIH, Francis Collins, is a focused, interdisciplinary directive, funding more than 25 labs to map not only the 3D architecture of the human genome, but also how this organization changes over time—the fourth dimension.

Dr. Mirny’s research focuses on biological physics and system biology. His multi-disciplinary approach combines first-principle physics with the analysis of genomic data. His efforts in Biological Physics involve the development of novel computational tools and physical models of genome organization and dynamics. Read more in the Nature Highlight article.

Prof. Mirny is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, an Associate Faculty of the Broad Institute, and an Associate Member of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Awards & Honors

  • 2014 // American Physical Society Fellow "For elucidating principles of protein-DNA search, and for applying concepts and methods of polymer physics to characterize the three dimensional organization of genome within a cell."
  • 2003 // NEC Fund Award
  • 2003 // Appointed Samuel A. Goldblith Career Development Professorship (MIT)
  • 2001 // John F. & Virginia B. Taplin Award

Key Publications

  • V. Imakaev, G. Fudenberg, N. Abdennur and L. A. Mirny. “Emerging Evidence of Chromosome Folding by Loop Extrusion.” Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2018 May 4.

  • H. Gibcus, K. Samejima, A. Goloborodko, I. Samejima, N. Naumova, J. Nuebler, M. T. Kanemaki, L. Xie, J. R. Paulson, W. C. Earnshaw, L. A. Mirny, and J. Dekker.”A pathway for mitotic chromosome formation.” Science. 2018 Feb 9; 359(6376).

  • Schwarzer, N. Abdennur, A. Goloborodko, A. Pekowska, G. Fudenberg, Y. Loe-Mie, N. A. Fonseca, W. Huber, C. Haering, L. A. Mirny, and F. Spitz. “Two independent modes of chromatin organization revealed by cohesin removal.” Nature. 2017 Nov 2; 551(7678):51-56.