Skip to content
Steve Abel.

Steven M. Abel

Associate Professor


Steve Abel received his undergraduate education at Rice University, where he earned a BS in Chemical Physics, a BA in Mathematics, and a BA in Physics. He received a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University and was a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

His graduate research focused on developing theoretical methods to understand and describe the highly correlated motion of molecules in dense liquids. His postdoctoral work applied theory and computation to understand how T cells, the primary orchestrators of adaptive immunity, identify and respond to pathogens. This work was carried out in close collaboration with experimentalists, with a particular emphasis on understanding how the membrane environment influences signal transduction in cells. Abel’s group applies theoretical and computational methods to investigate fundamental problems in cell biology and immunology. A major focus is on the development of a multiscale, spatiotemporal understanding of cellular processes involving the interplay of signal transduction networks, membranes, and the cytoskeleton.


  • Computational cell biology and immunology
  • Theory and simulation of soft biological materials
  • Membrane and polymer biophysics
  • Antigen recognition by immune cells
  • Intracellular transport
  • Stochastic and spatial effects in biochemical reaction networks
  • Systems biology
  • Statistical mechanics


PhD, Stanford University

BS, BA, Rice University

Professional Service

  • Member: American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Physical Society, Biophysical Society
  • Chair/co-chair of AIChE Annual Meeting sessions including: Complex and Networked Chemical and Biochemical Systems, Receptor-Mediated and Intracellular Phenomena, Applications in Immunology and Immunotherapy
  • Academic Editor, PLOS One

Awards and Recognitions

  • 2020 Professional Promise in Research Award, Tickle College of Engineering
  • 2020 Teaching Fellow Award, Tickle College of Engineering
  • 2020 Tom and Ruth Clark Excellence in Chemical Engineering Award, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
  • 2019 Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year Award, Tickle College of Engineering
  • 2019, 2015 Outstanding Teacher Award, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
  • 2018 NSF CAREER Award
  • Centennial Teaching Assistant Award, Stanford University


For a complete list of publications, visit Abel's Google Scholar page.

  • Pullen, R.H. and Abel, S.M. “Mechanical feedback enables catch bonds to selectively stabilize scanning microvilli at T-cell surfaces.” Mol. Biol. Cell 30: 2087-2095 (2019).
  • Mlynarczyk, P.J. and Abel, S.M. "First passage of molecular motors on networks of cytoskeletal filaments." Phys. Rev. E 99: 022406 (2019).
  • Li, B. and Abel, S.M. "Shaping membrane vesicles by adsorption of a semiflexible polymer." Soft Matter 14: 185-193 (2018). Featured on the front cover.
  • Norred, Caveney, Chauhan, Collier, Collier, Abel, Simpson. "Macromolecular crowding induces spatial correlations that control gene expression bursting patterns." ACS Synth. Biol. 7: 1251-1258 (2018).
  • Pullen, R.H. and Abel, S.M. "Catch bonds at T cell interfaces: Impact of surface reorganization and membrane fluctuations." Biophys. J. 113: 120-131 (2017).
  • Prescott, A.M. and Abel, S.M. "Combining in silico evolution and nonlinear dimensionality reduction to redesign responses of signaling networks." Phys. Biol. 13: 066015 (2016).
  • Prescott, A.M., McCollough, F.W., Eldreth, B.L., Binder, B.M., Abel, S.M. "Analysis of network topologies underlying ethylene growth response kinetics." Front. Plant Sci. 7: 1308 (2016). 
  • Mirzaeifard, S. and Abel, S.M. "Confined semiflexible polymers suppress fluctuations of soft membrane tubes." Soft Matter 12: 1783-1790 (2016). 
  • Mlynarczyk, P.J., Pullen, R.H., Abel, S.M. "Confinement and diffusion modulate bistability and stochastic switching in a reaction network with positive feedback." J. Chem. Phys. 144: 015102 (2016). Selected as a 2016 Editors’ Choice article.
Steve Abel.

Contact Information

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.

View our Privacy Policy.