REU Faculty Research Projects

Summer 2024 Projects

Please select your top 5 projects (rank 1 to 5 on your application)

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Title: Macrophage Targeting Drug Delivery Systems

Project Description: Osteoarthritis (OA) is the leading degenerative joint disease marked by persistent low grade chronic inflammation and no approved therapies to slow down progression. Despite emerging role of synovial macrophage mediated inflammation in OA pathogenesis, precise therapeutic targeting of macrophages remains challenging. Macrophage targeting approaches can potentially remodel inflammation in OA, but unbiased elimination of all macrophages in the joint is detrimental. The goal of this project is to design a drug delivery system for efficient targeting and phenotype modulation of pro-inflammatory macrophage sub-types and restore the balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory immune signals in the joint. The proposed studies will establish design rules for polymeric nanoparticles which can selectively target inflammation promoting macrophage sub-type (M1), modulate their phenotype to restore balance between M1, inflammation promoting and M2 repair promoting macrophages in chronic and low-grade inflammatory diseases such as OA.

Role of REU student in the project: The REU student will be responsible for fabrication and characterization of biodegradable PEG and PLGA nanoparticle alongside a graduate student. The student will encapsulate and evaluate release rate of the two biomolecules from a combination of nanoparticles as well as characterize their cell uptake. The optimized preparation will be used for modulation of macrophage behavior.

Era Jain, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering. Website:



Title: Integrated Data Analytics for Cardiac Organoid Physiomics

Project Description: With the advancement of stem cell technology, researchers have developed approaches to use cardiomyocytes derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC-CMs) for drug-induced cardiotoxicity. We propose to develop an integrated physiomics analytical platform to establish human cardiomyocyte contractility profile, which can be used to monitor the responsiveness of human cardiomyocytes toward drug treatments. By applying unsupervised learning algorithms to the datasets, we will optimize the clustering model to visualize the difference and relevance of cardiomyocyte contraction profiles under drug treatments, which could facilitate drug development in medicine.

Zhen Ma, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering. Website:




Title:  Smart Materials for Biomedical Applications

Project Description:  We have developed ‘smart’ polymeric materials with a range of functionalities for wound healing in traumatic wounds, chronic wounds, and Crohn’s fistulas. The desired functions of these materials include blood clotting, degradability, antimicrobial properties, desired cell interactions, and controlled drug delivery. This REU project will focus on incorporation and/or characterization of one or more of these properties with an overall goal of improving healing outcomes. The research will involve a range of skills development, including polymer synthesis, scaffold fabrication, and chemical, physical, and biological characterization of biomaterials.

Mary Beth Monroe, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering. Website:



Title: Single-Molecule Detection of Proteins using Engineered Nanopores.

Project Description: This project is aimed at designing, developing, optimizing, and validating bioinspired pore-based nanostructures for detecting proteins at single-molecule precision. These studies will involve techniques of protein engineering and high-resolution electrical recordings through single biological nanopores.

Liviu Movileanu, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Physics. Website:



Title: Treating Alzheimer’s and Disease using Computational Modeling Approaches.

Project Description: Finding pathways across biological barriers for delivering life-saving drugs is entering a new era with the rapid advancement of computational resources. Our research group focuses on developing simulation methods to elucidate the interfacial phenomenon associated with biological barriers that play a role in life-threatening diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and chronic infections. Our goal is to influence this experimentally dominated research field by providing mechanistic, structural, and molecular insights into the barrier functions that were computationally unattainable before our work. In the past few years, we have made breakthroughs in understanding the molecular architecture of the blood-brain barrier and developed strategies to enhance the barrier’s permeability for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease. In the summer, we will perform simulations to investigate the blood-brain barrier and provide a perspective on the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Shikha Nangia, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering Director, NSF Site: Interactive Biomaterials REU Program. Website:



Title: Biosensing and Bioinspired Music Creation During Mycelium Growth.

Project Description: As the vegetative part of a fungus, mycelium fibers grow from agricultural wastes and integrate the wastes from pieces to continuous composite materials. Its growth is sensitive to the distribution of nutrition and environmental factors and is regulated by fluid delivery within the fiber network. Using electric sensors and microcontrollers, you will collect electric conductivity data during the mycelium growth. You will use the data and learn a machine-learning method to investigate the correlation between electric signals and environmental factors (e.g., temperature, humidity, and light). You will have the opportunity to use electric signals and artificial intelligence algorithms to create innovative music.

Zhao Qin, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering. Website:



Title: New Antifouling Materials to Control Bacterial Biofilm Formation.

Project Description: Bacterial colonization of implanted biomaterials causes biofilm formation and drug resistant infections. To address this challenge, the student will work with other team members to engineer novel antifouling materials based on physical and chemical modifications of silicon. Specifically, a new catheter will be engineered with micron-size pillars to prevent bacterial colonization. The student will have an opportunity to learn microfabrication, surface modification, microscopy, bacterial culturing, and imaging analysis.

Dacheng Ren, Stevenson Endowed Professor Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering. Website:



Title: Design, Manufacturing, and Testing of Pyrolytic Carbon Fiber Lattice Structures 

Project Description: The recent advances in additive manufacturing techniques have allowed structures with complex geometries to be directly printed with high precision. Lattice structures are among one of such structures, which were shown to provide significant weight savings and outstanding mechanical properties, such as high compressive strength, fracture toughness, and impact resistance. Pyrolytic carbon fiber lattice structures are lattice structures that are comprised of 3D interconnected pyrolytic carbon fiber networks. They can be manufactured by 3D printing the polymer lattice structures first, followed by pyrolyzing the polymer structures under high temperatures. However, currently, there are still many challenges exist in developing such structures, including ensuring the geometric accuracy during the printing step, avoiding warpage during the pyrolyzing step, and determining the accurate volume shrinkage before and after the pyrolyzing step.

To address these challenges, this project aims to design and manufacture such pyrolytic carbon fiber lattice structures and identify optimum set of printing parameters for 3D printing step and the processing parameters for the pyrolyzing step (e.g., heating cycle, gas flow rate) through the design-of-experiments method. Moreover, this project will also investigate the compressive strength of the manufactured lattice structures and its dependence on the printing and processing parameters. The obtained compressive strengths will also be compared with those of the traditional non-lattice structures. This project will provide guidance in designing and manufacturing pyrolytic carbon fiber lattice structures for engineering applications, such as building, infrastructure, aerospace, marine, and energy structures.

Yeqing Wang, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Website:



Title: Design of nanoparticles for protein delivery to CD4+ T cells

Project Description: Immune system plays crucial role in human health and diseases. The dysregulation of immunity drives the pathogenesis of numerous human conditions, including cancer and autoimmunity. CD4+ T cells, one of the main effector cell populations, are responsible for carrying out far-reaching cellular immune functions that regulates both cellular immunity and humoral immunity. Our team propose to modulate CD4+ T cell functions as a mean to control immune responses for the treatment of various conditions. This REU project will focus on developing nanoparticles that carry protein cargos with the capability of targeted delivery to CD4+ T cells. This project will provide opportunities for trainee to gain initial knowledge of nanoparticle manufacturing, protein encapsulation and characterization, in addition to in vitro biological assays to determine the effectiveness of the obtained particles.

Yaoying Wu, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering. Website:



Title: Bioinformatic Analysis of Single-Cell Sequencing Date from Human Embryoids

Project Description: Human embryoids are 3D cell cultures that mimic some aspects of early human embryo development, grown from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) by scientists. They are used to explore early human development, inherited diseases, and effects of drugs. Embryoids are not embryos—they lack certain structures and complexities of a fully developed embryo. It is a fascinating area of study that helps bridge the gap between basic biology and medical applications. Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) is a cutting-edge molecular biology technique that allows scientists to analyze the gene expression profile of individual cells. In human embryoid research, scRNA-seq is crucial due to the diverse cell populations. The participant of this REU program will analyze and compare scRNA-seq data produced by my lab and in existing publications. Preferably, the participant should be familiar with R studio and/or Python.

Yi Zheng, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering. Website: