Interdisciplinary PhD in Structural and Computational Biology and Quantitative Biosciences

Joshua Brockman

Department of Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Lab Website

2146 Engineering Centers Building
1550 Engineering Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1609
Phone: (608) 890-2616


B.S.: Ohio State University
Ph.D.: Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology
Postdoctoral work: Harvard University

Measuring and programming cellular mechanobiology

Cellular receptors experience and transmit forces at the piconewton scale (approximately one trillionth the force required to pick up an apple). These minute forces influence many biological processes, including coagulation, cell migration, cancer metastasis, and T cell antigen recognition. The Brockman lab merges chemistry, bioengineering, and imaging approaches to address questions in cellular mechanobiology and cancer immunotherapy. Specifically, we design technologies to measure and manipulate cellular forces at the receptor level. We employ synthetic strategies to chemically synthesize molecular tension probes that transduce piconewton receptor forces into fluorescence. We also leverage fluorescence microscopy techniques, including super-resolution microscopy, to capture fluorescence images that report the location and magnitude of receptor forces (Figure 1). Finally, we seek to design molecular tools that will program the mechanical behavior of cells with a special interest in manipulating the cells of the immune system. Through this work, we seek to impact the fields of mechanobiology, tissue engineering, synthetic biology, and immunotherapy.

Figure 1: Molecular tension probes for super-resolved imaging of piconewton receptor forces. (a) Tension probe scheme. (b, c) Time lapse super-resolved image of cellular forces on a surface coated in tension probes. Color in these images represents the time at which forces occurred. (d) Molecular tension probes allow super-resolved imaging of cellular forces with better than 100nm spatial resolution. Source: Brockman, J.M., Su, H. et al. Nature Methods 2020.

Joshua Brockman

Areas of Expertise

  • Biotechnology
  • RNA/DNA Biophysics
  • Spectroscopy Microscopy Imaging