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Available projects are summarized below. REU students will be in a highly collaborative environment and learn aspects of material science engineering, bioengineering, biophotonics, biochemistry, and clinical translation.

Modeling and Characterization of 3D Microelectrodes (MEA) for In Vitro Disease on a Chip Applications

Using Microelectrode Arrays (MEAs) and “on demand” animal and human cells (such as induced pluripotent stem cells, iPSCs), researchers are able to create complex diseases in a dish. REU participants will design and manufacture 3D MEAs based on 3D printing methods, electroplate different materials on the MEAs and characterize the electrodes with metrology tools. The students will also measure 3D MEA impedance and CV curves and determine cell growth compatibility.

Ab-initio study of stress/strain effect on interaction between biomolecules and biomaterials

Among various biomaterials, calcium hydroxyapatite (HA) with a structure similar to human bone, is attracting much interest to construct artificial organs, rehabilitation devices, or implants. The REU student will develop DFT simulations using Vienna Ab-initio Simulation Package (VASP) to study 1) the effect of the mechanical strain/stress on the adsorption of biomolecules at surfaces of biomaterials; and 2) how do biomolecules affect the mechanical properties of the biomaterials.

Influence of Chondroitin Sulfate on Prostate Cancer Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition

The tumor microenvironment (TME) provides cues to cancer cells and promotes metastatic progression. Increased chondroitin sulfate (CS) concentration in biomaterial scaffolds is expected to promote greater expression of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers. The REU student will produce Chitosan-CS scaffolds with greater CS concentrations by freeze-casting. Prostate cancer cells will be cultured on the C-CS scaffolds and evaluated for cell growth, cell morphology, and EMT marker expression.

Actin filament assembly and mechanics regulation by gelsolin in crowded cellular environments

Recent studies demonstrate that actin filaments sense and respond to mechanical forces and geometric constraints. REU student(s) will examine how molecular crowding modulates the mechanical properties of filaments regulated by gelsolin binding, through total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy and image analysis of filament bending modes and persistence length. REU participants will also develop a simulation for actin filament fluctuations in crowded cellular environments to study the effects of various molecular crowders (including macromolecules and proteins).

Highly specific and selective biosensors for virus and bacteria detection

Detection of single nucleotide substitutions (SNS) can differentiate between pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria towards addressing infectious diseases. REU students working in this project will develop electrochemical sensors, involving design and implementation of nanoparticle immobilization on solid surfaces, the study of DNA and RNA interactions, while investigating the redox-chemistry of the resulting sensor system.

Enhancing Wound Healing Using Copper Nanoparticles and Polyphenols in Hydrogel Nanofibers

The use of copper nanoparticles (Cu NPs) shows great potential in wound dressing applications as cell growth-stimulants for skin generation by promoting formation and stabilization of new blood vessels and skin extracellular matrix. In this project, REU participants will develop polyacrilic acid (PAA)/chitosan (CS) electrospun fibers that will be functionalized by Cu NPs and polyphenols. They will investigate the antimicrobial activity and skin cell growth stimulation of functionalized fibers.

Designing Next Generation Nucleic Acid Delivery Vehicles

The delivery of short nucleic acids (siRNA, miRNA, antisense oligonucleotides) can regulate disease related genes with high target sequence specificity, providing a pathway to treat most incurable diseases. REU students will develop peptide based, polyelectrolyte micelles with different chiral patterns. In addition, they will characterize the size and stability of these delivery vehilces in simulated in vivo environments by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and both static and dynamic light scattering (DLS) techniques.

On-Chip Plasmonic Bio-Sensing

A large variety of biomolecules of significant medical interest have been selectively detected based on Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance (LSPR) shift. Participating REU students will develop LSPR sensors using the nanoimprinting technique and thin film deposition techniques (spin coating, e-beam evaporation, atomic layer deposition). Students will develop sensor surface coatings based on thiol-terminated surfactants. Students also will characterize the sensors using reflection near infrared spectroscopy.

Development of anti-inflammatory cerium oxide based biomaterials

Cerium oxide based nanomaterials can contribute to human health as a potential biomaterial with long term anti-inflammatory characteristics. REU participants will develop the deposition of cerium oxide nanoparticle coatings. REU students will then study the catalytic behavior of these cerium oxide based materials. REU students will also study the biocompatibility using cell proliferation assays and measuring Reactive Oxygen Species and/or Reactive Nitrogen Species using microscopy techniques.

Polymer Nanoparticle based Tumor Targeted ChemoDynamic Therapy (CDT)

Most nanomedicines that attack tumors by Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) based lipid peroxidation mechanisms require external activation to work. In this project, we develop tumor-targeted conjugated polymer nanoparticles (CPNPs) carrying iron for CDT through Fenton chemistry. The ferroptosis mechanism is also not heavily reliant on oxygen availability and is therefore promising for the treatment of hypoxic tumors.

Augmented Polymer-based Sponges for Hemostatic Treatment: Spatio-Temporal Studies Using a Noninvasive Model

Hemorrhage remains the main cause of preventable death on the battlefield. This underscores the need of developing appropriate hemostatic treatments that can effectively stanch blood loss while remaining easily applicable at the point of care. REU participants will learn and develop a unique polymer-based hemostatic dressing for a biocompatible, hydrophobic bandage system to arrest bleeding. The participants will also learn to the engineering aspects of the project that will involve measurement of stress-strain properties, polymer rheology, adhesion, invasive hemostatic model, and contact angle measurements. The bandage will be used for treating different types of trauma wounds, skin wounds, and recalcitrant open wounds.

Ultra-wide band gap semiconductors for far UV sterilization

Sub-240 nanometer deep UV light offers a passive sterilization method for surfaces and spaces, effectively combating the transmission of Covid-19. However, traditional far UV light emitters, typically gas-discharge lamps, are both costly and fragile. To promote widespread adoption of far UV sterilization, a transition from expensive and delicate gas-discharge lamps to affordable and robust solid-state nano-scale sources of far UV light is essential — paralleling the recent solid-state lighting revolution in the visible wavelength range. This project’s objectives include identifying and studying candidate ultra-wide band gap (UWBG) semiconductors and semiconductor nanostructures, such as quantum wells, for far UV light emission. Students engaged in the project will explore and develop various UWBG semiconductor materials and nanostructures using a comprehensive suite of semiconductor design and characterization tools. These tools encompass Schrödinger-Poisson electrostatic and optical modeling, as well as electronic, topographic, and crystallographic metrology. The ultimate goal is to pinpoint limiting factors in current materials and nanostructures and devise innovative solutions for their improvement.


January 17, 2024