Dr. Qi’s research falls in the general area of finite deformation multiphsyics modeling of soft active materials. The material systems include: shape memory polymers, shape memory elastomeric composites, light activated polymers, covalent adaptive network polymers (or vitrimers). Particularly, he is interested in understanding and modeling the evolution of material structure and mechanical properties of these materials under environmental stimuli, such as temperature, light, etc, and during material processing, such as 3D printing. To assist understanding of mechanical properties, his group routinely conducts thermomechanical or photo-mechanical experiments. Constitutive models developments are typically based on the observations from these experiments. The ultimate goal of the constitutive models is to integrate them with finite element through user material subroutines so that these models can be used to solve complicated 3D multiphysics problems involving nonlinear mechanics.
His current research projects include 4D printing of active materials, mechanics in 3D printing technology, active polymer design and manufacturing, reprocessing and recycling polymers. For 3D/4D printing, his group is developing 3D hybrid printing methods by using a variety of 3D printing technologies, such as inkjet, Stereolithography (SLA), Direct Ink Write (DiW), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), to print active and functional materials, such as shape memory polymers, liquid crystal elastomers, conductive polymers, epoxies, and cellulose nanocrystals. For reprocessing and recycling polymers, his group is developing methods and technologies to recycling thermosetting polymers and composites, such as fiber reinforced epoxy composites. These projects are conducted through supports by NSF and AFOSR, and through collaborations with Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), and Air Force Research Laboratories (AFRL).
Dr. Varenberg is engaged with two major research domains:
• Exploration of the tribological solutions evolved in the biological world. This multinational interdisciplinary research, which involves joint work with biologists, seeks to understand and mimic the behavior of interacting surfaces in the world of animals and plants, while uncovering the biological side of adhesion, friction, lubrication and wear. Research thus far has led to development of two new types of bio-inspired surfaces, which have a strong potential to be imbedded in a variety of products in daily and industrial use.
• Development of green aspects of classical tribology. This multidisciplinary research sets problems at the interface between physics, chemistry, material science and mechanics, and aims at increasing efficiency, integrity and cleanliness of modern surface technologies. Research thus far has resulted in laying a cornerstone of a new family of mechano-chemical surface treatments, which are expected to bring eco-innovation to friction surfaces in transportation, industrial and power-generation sectors.
Stretchable/flexible hybrid electronics, biomedical materials & devices, and micro & nano electronic systems
Dr. Yeo’s research in the field of biomedical science and bioengineering focuses on the fundamental and applied aspects of biomolecular interactions, soft materials, and nano-microfabrication for the development of nano-biosensors and soft bioelectronics.
Dr. Dixon's research focuses on elucidating and quantifying the molecular aspects that control lymphatic function as they respond to the dynamically changing mechanical environment they encounter in the body. Through the use of tissue-engineered model systems and animal models, our research is shedding light on key functions of lymphatic transport, and the consequence of disease on these functions. One such function is the lymphatic transport of dietary lipid from the intestine to the circulation. Recent evidence from our lab suggests that this process involves active uptake into lymphatics by the lymphatic endothelial cells. There are currently no efficacious cures for people suffering from lymphedema, and the molecular details connecting lymphedema severity with clinically observed obesity and lipid accumulation are unknown. Knowledge of these mechanisms will provide insight for planning treatment and prevention strategies for people facing lipid-lymphatic related diseases.
Intrinsic to the lymphatic system are the varying mechanical forces (i.e., stretch, fluid shear stress) that the vessels encounter as they seek to maintain interstitial fluid balance and promote crucial transport functions, such as lipid transport and immune cell trafficking. Thus, we are also interested in understanding the nature of these forces in both healthy and disease states, such as lymphedema, in order to probe the biological response of the lymphatic system to mechanical forces. The complexity of these questions requires the development of new tools and technologies in tissue engineering and imaging. In the context of exploring lymphatic physiology, students in Dr. Dixon's laboratory learn to weave together techniques in molecular and cell biology, biomechanics, imaging, computer programming, and image and signal processing to provide insight into the regulation of lymphatic physiology. Students in the lab also have the opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary environment, as we collaborate with clinicians, life scientists, and other engineers, thus preparing the student for a career in academia and basic science research, or a career in industry.
Immunoengineering, cancer, metastasis, immunotherapy, drug delivery
Dr. Thomas’s research focuses on the role of biological transport phenomena in physiological and pathophysiological processes. Her laboratory specializes in incorporating mechanics with cell engineering, biochemistry, biomaterials, and immunology in order to 1) elucidate the role mechanical forces play in regulating seemingly unrelated aspects of tumor progression such as metastasis and immune suppression as well as 2) develop novel immunotherapeutics to treat cancer.
Cancer progression is tightly linked to the ability of malignant cells to exploit the immune system to promote survival. Insight into immune function can therefore be gained from understanding how tumors exploit immunity. Conversely, this interplay makes the concept of harnessing the immune system to combat cancer an intriguing approach. Using an interdisciplinary approach, we aim to develop a novel systems-oriented framework to quantitatively analyze immune function in cancer. This multifaceted methodology to study tumor immunity will not only contribute to fundamental questions regarding how to harness immune response, but will also pave the way for novel engineering approaches to treat cancer such as with vaccines and cell- or molecular-based therapies.
Neuroengineering tools and robotics, ultra-high throughput genomics and molecular measurement instrumentation; 3-D microfabrication and bioMEMS technologies for neuroscience and genomics applications; and micro-lenslet arrays
The Precision Biosystems Laboratory is focused on the creation and application of miniaturized, high-throughput, biological instrumentation to advance genetic science. The development of instruments that can nimbly load, manipulate, and measure many biological samples—not only simultaneously, but also more sensitively, more accurately, and more repeatably than under current approaches—opens the door to essential, comprehensive biological system studies.
Our group strives to develop these tools, validate their performance with meaningful biological assays, and with our collaborators, pursue discoveries using the instruments. These instruments, and the discoveries they enable, could open new frontiers for the design and control of biological systems.
Dr. Sulchek's research focuses primarily on the measurement and prediction of how multiple individual biological bonds produce a coordinated function within molecular and cellular systems. There are two complementary goals. The first is to understand the kinetics of multivalent pharmaceuticals during their targeting of disease markers; the second is to quantify the host cell signal transduction resulting from pathogen invasion. Several tools are developed and employed to accomplish these goals. The primary platform for study is the atomic force microscope (AFM), which controls the 3-D positioning of biologically functionalized micro- and nanoscale mechanical probes. Interactions between biological molecules are quantified in a technique called force spectroscopy. Membrane protein solubilized nanolipoprotein particles (NLPs) are also used to functionalize micro/nano-scale probes with relevant biological mediators. This scientific program requires the development of enabling instrumentation and techniques, which include the following:
Advanced microscopy and MEMs;
Nanomechanical linkers, which provide a convenient platform to control biomolecular interactions and study multivalent molecular kinetics;
Biological mimetics, which provide a simple system to study cell membranes and pathogens.
Ultimately, this work is used to optimize molecular drug targeting, improve chem/bio sensors, and develop more efficient pathogen countermeasures.
Dr. García's research centers on cellular and tissue engineering, areas which integrate engineering and biological principles to control cell function in order to restore and/or enhance function in injured or diseased organs. Specifically, his research focuses on fundamental structure-function relationships governing cell-biomaterials interactions for bone and muscle applications. Current projects involve the analysis and manipulation of cell adhesion receptors and their extracellular matrix ligands. For example, a mechanochemical system has been developed to analyze the contributions of receptor binding, clustering, and interactions with other cellular structural proteins to cell adhesion strength.
In another research thrust, bio-inspired surfaces, including micropatterned substrates, are engineered to control cell adhesion in order to direct signaling and cell function. For instance, biomolecular surfaces have been engineered to target specific adhesion receptors to modulate cell signaling and differentiation. These biomolecular strategies are applicable to the development of 3D hybrid scaffolds for enhanced tissue reconstruction,"smart" biomaterials, and cell growth supports. Finally, genetic engineering approaches have been applied to engineer cells that form bone tissue for use in the development of mineralized templates for enhanced bone repair.