Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Keith Task


1178A, Benedum Hall


Link to CV



Research Focus  

My research focuses on the intrinsic and extrinsic variability of embryonic stem cells (ESC). ESC have huge potential to be used in many future therapeutic applications due to their self-renewal and differentiation capacity. However, the variability of stem cells restricts the direct application of deterministic approaches towards drawing mechanistic insight on the system. Our long-term goal is to understand the mechanisms of ESC differentiation to mature, insulin producing β-cells to develop efficient ways in guiding this differentiation for production of functional cells for diabetes treatment. As a step towards this goal, the overall objective of my work is to address and incorporate multi-source uncertainty during the mathematical analysis of stem cell behavior. We do this by employing different modeling approaches to address three sources of variability: (i) internal variability, which is intrinsic to the components of the system, (ii) external variability, which arises from the environment of the system and (iii) process variability, which arises from component interaction,component heterogeneity, and parameter uncertainty.

Using such programming tools as Fortran and Matlab, we employ different computational techniques, including non-linear optimization, Monte Carlo simulations, and robust regression, in order to extract knowledge out of the experimental data and from the system. This data is obtained both during pluripotency as well as differentiation. Directed differentiation of human ESC towards pancreatic lineage is achieved by various chemical cues (growth factors, inhibitors, etc.) and mechanical stimuli (different substrates and matrices).  The degree of differentiation is quantified using such assays as quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and flow cytometry, the latter being able to capture population behavior and heterogeneity. Different characteristics of the cells are quantified, including gene/protein markers for phenotype commitment and cell cycle dynamics. Specific projects supporting our overall goal include:

·      Addressing process variability during endoderm induction by a population-based model

·      Gene Regulatory Network identification under high intrinsic uncertainty

·      Extrinsic substrate variability and correlating substrate microstructural features with differentiation patterning

·      Analysis of cell cycle population dynamics and stochastic effects on cycle transition

·      Modeling cycle behavior at the molecular level during differentiation



Doctoral Program, Chemical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2009-Present

BS, Chemical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2005 

Teaching Experience  

Teaching assistant, ChE 500: Systems Engineering 1: Dynamics and Modeling , Fall Terms 2010 and 2011

Teaching assistant, ChE 600: Systems Engineering 2: Process Design, Fall Term 2012


  • K Task, A D’Amore, S Singh, M Jaramillo, WR Wagner, P Kumta, I Banerjee. “Specific Microstructural Cues Correlate with Endoderm Differentiation of Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells on Fibrin Gels as Revealed by a Systems Level Approach.” Under review in J Royal Soc Interface.
  • M Jaramillo, S Mathew, K Task, I Banerjee. “Potential for Pancreatic Maturation of Differentiating Human Embryonic Stem Cells is Sensitive to Specific Pathway of Definitive Endoderm Commitment.” Under review in Stem Cells and Development.
  • JE Candiello, S Singh, K Task, P Kumta, I Banerjee. “Mouse Embryonic Stem Cell Sensitivity to Mechanically Compliant Alginate Substrates: A Potentially Promising Platform for Endoderm Leaning Differentiation.” Journal of Biological Engineering. 2013, 7:9.
  • N Chemmangattuvalappilǂ, K Taskǂ, I Banerjee. “An Integer Optimization Algorithm for Robust Identification of Non-linear Gene Regulatory Networks.” BMC Systems Biology. 2012, 6:119. (ǂ Equal contributors)
  • K Task, M Jaramillo, I Banerjee. “Population Based Model of Human Embryonic Stem Cell (hESC) Differentiation During Endoderm Induction.” PLoS One 2012;7(3):e32975. Epub 2012 Mar 12.
  • I Banerjee, K Task, S Maiti. “A Genetic Network Identification Algorithm Combining Experiment and Computation.” In Computational Biology of Embryonic Stem Cells. Ed. M. Zhan. Bentham Science Publishers, 2012.
  • T Congedo, E Lahodo, R Matzie, K Task. “The Nuclear Industry.” In Kent and Riegel’s Handbook of Industrial Chemistry and Biotechnology. 11th Ed. Springer. New York, NY, 2007.

Conference Presentations 

  • K Task, O Koubaa, I Banerjee. “Analyzing the Dynamics of ESC Cell Cycle Transition Through an Integrated Experimental and Modeling Approach”. AIChE Annual Conference, 2012. Pittsburgh, PA.
  • K Task, A D’Amore, S Singh, M Jaramillo, P Kumta, I Banerjee. “Correlating Effects of Gel Microstructural Features with Specific Differentiation Patterning of Embryonic Stem Cells.” Presented at:
    • AIChE Annual Conference, 2012. Pittsburgh, PA.
    • ISSCR Annual Conference, 2012. Yokohama, Japan.
    • AIChE Annual Conference, 2011. Minneapolis, MN. 

  • K Task, M Jaramillo, I Banerjee. “Population Based Model of Human Embryonic Stem Cell (hESC) Differentiation During Endoderm Induction.” Presented at:
    • ISSCR Annual Conference, 2012. Yokohama, Japan.
    • Poster Session at BMES Annual Conference, 2011. Hartford, CT.
  • K Task, M Jaramillo, I Banerjee. “Mathematical Modeling of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Differentiation During Endoderm Induction.” Presented at the AIChE Annual Conference, 2010. Salt Lake City, UT.
  • K Task, L. Paoletti, E Lahoda. “Molten Salt/Helium Comparison for Intermediate Heat Exchange Loop.” Presented at the AIChE Spring Meeting, 2005. Atlanta, GA