Research Projects

Interactive Biomaterials REU Program: Faculty Research Projects

Please select your top 5 projects

(rank 1 to 5 on your application)

Summer 2022 Projects

Project #1 (Bah)
Title: Post-translational Control of Intrinsically Disordered Protein Function.
Project Description: Elucidate the structure, dynamics and functions of intrinsically disordered proteins and protein regions (IDPs/IDRs) and their biological regulation by Post-translational modifications. The BahLab is particularly interested in characterizing such regulation at atomic resolution using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and other biophysical tools such as microcalorimetry and fluorescence spectroscopic techniques. A recent and exciting emerging field in the IDP world is the realization that this class of proteins, either alone or in concert with Nucleic acids, can drive phase separation of biomolecules, resulting in the formation of membraneless organelles with extremely high protein concentrations. Such organelles form both within the cytoplasm (e.g. RNA granules) and the nucleus (e.g. nucleolus) as well as in the extracellular matrix (elastin coacervation). The goal of my lab is not only to understand the PTM-mediated conformational transitions (e.g. folded vs. disorder transitions) and/or monomer: phase-separation transitions in specific examples, but to also develop tools/protocols to enable characterization of such properties in other biological systems.
Alaji Bah, PhD
Assistant Professor
Dept of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
SUNY Upstate Medical University

Project #2 (Gitsov)
Title: Nanoscale selfassembly of stimuli-responsive dendritic macromolecules.
Project Description: Building on work in the Gitsov group to prepare perfectly branched (dendritic) macromolecules and dendritic copolymers that are biocompatible and biodegradable, including work of recent undergraduate researchers the REU student will evaluate new biocompatible dendrimers and study them as fluorescent biomarkers, gaining experience in analytical organic chemistry and materials testing. Further, they will learn how to prepare and purify polymer solutions suitable for cell incubation and how to characterize the isolated products using spectroscopic analytical methods.

Dr. Ivan Gitsov Professor of Polymer Chemistry//Department of Chemistry// Director, The Michael M. Szwarc Polymer Research Institute, State University of New York – ESF

Project #3 (Henderson)
Title: 4D Printing of Shape-Memory Polymers
Project Description: Manufacturing with shape-memory polymers (SMPs) has the potential to enable paradigm-shifting advances across diverse fields through creation of devices possessing spatially varying material functionality that cannot be achieved by any current approach. Yet gaps in fundamental understanding at the interface of materials processing and materials science currently impede progress. To address these limitations and transcend the domains involved, we are studying fundamental materials processing and science to achieve new approaches for fabrication of fully 3D, solid or porous devices with uniform or spatially varying functionality from individual, rather than composite, SMPs using off-the-shelf 3D printers. In this project, the REU participant will perform interdisciplinary experimentation to achieve and study these approaches.

James H. Henderson, PhD
(Pronouns: he/him/his)
Associate Professor, Biomedical and Chemical Engineering
Associate Director, BioInspired Syracuse
Syracuse University

Project #4 (Jain)
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
Biomedical & Chemical Engineering
BioInspired Syracuse: Institute for Material and Living Systems
Syracuse University

Project #5 (Luo)
Title: Nanomedicine for therapeutic delivery and immune modulation
Project Description: The research interests in Luo lab focus on the translational research in design and application of nanotechnology/nanomaterials for therapeutic delivery and immune modulations. Luo lab has developed a unique Telodendrimer (TD) nanoplatform for structure-based customized nanocarrier design for different therapeutic molecules, including small molecular drug, peptide, protein and gene molecules for optimal in vivo delivery. Further, TD nanoplatform can be implemented in nanogel and hydrogel resin or bulky hydrogl for both controlled release of therapeutics and immune modulation. TD hydrogel resin can effectively capture immune stimulating and mediating molecules based on the size selective effects and the ubiquitous affinity towards biomolecules. This TD resin can be applied in hemoperfusion to attenuate cytokine storm in sepsis and other critical illness. Student interns will have chance for hand on experience for the synthesis of telodendrimer nanoparticles and polymer nanogel or hydrogel for loading of therapeutic molecules or for the capture of pathogenic or immune stimulating molecules for disease treatments, e.g. cancer, infections, inflammatory disease and sepsis. Students with background with polymer chemistry, nanomaterials, pharmaceutic science, Biochemistry and Biology are welcome to apply.

Juntao Luo, PhD, Associate Professor
Department of Pharmacology
SUNY Upstate Medical University

Project #6 (Ma)
Title: Machine learning techniques for predictive drug cardiotoxicity screening
Project Description: Utilizing recent advances in human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) technology, nonlinear analysis and machine learning we can create novel tools to evaluate drug-induced cardiotoxicity on human cardiomyocytes. The calcium transient signals recorded from hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) are highly complex and dynamic with great degrees of response characteristics to various drug treatments. By utilizing extracted parameters from a commercially available high-throughput testing platform, we were able to classify the drugs by its unique cardiac responses and improve our machine learning algorithm’s ability to predict cardiotoxic levels and drug classifications.

Zhen Ma, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Samuel and Carol Nappi Research Scholar Department of Biomedical & Chemical Engineering // BioInspired Syracuse: Institute for Material and Living Systems // Syracuse University

Project #7 (Makhlynets) (on-campus only)
Title: Stimuli-responsive biomaterials for wound healing
Project Description: The goal of this project is to design smart, stimuli-responsive biocompatible antimicrobial materials that can change their properties in response to changes in redox state and pH. If successful, this project will transform the field of stimuli-responsive hydrogel design and how we approach wound care. Toward this goal, I propose to design two classes of stimuli-responsive materials with self-healing properties: 1) redox-sensitive peptide hydrogels using Cu(II) as a crosslinker, this hydrogel would dissolve upon reduction of copper; 2) pH- responsive hydrogel using Ca(II) as a crosslinker to deliver fibroblast cells into wound bed. We will use a novel approach based on coordination chemistry to 1) introduce non-covalent crosslinks into the materials to generate self-healing hydrogels that could be delivered into wounds via syringe and 2) make materials respond to redox potential and pH. We already have both materials in the lab and currently working on improving and characterizing them.
Olga Makhlynets, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry
Syracuse University

Project #8 (Monroe)
Title:  Shape memory polymers for wound healing.
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
Syracuse University

Project #9 (Movileanu)
Title: “Bioengineered nanopores for single-molecule detection”
Project Description: This project is aimed at designing, developing, optimizing, and validating bioinspired pore-based nanostructures for sampling protein-protein interactions 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.
Department of Physics
Syracuse University

Project #10 (Mozhdehi)
Title: Genetically Encoded Lipidation to Manipulate the Structure, Assembly, and Phase Behavior of Proteins
Project Description: Post-translational modification (PTM) of proteins, e.g., lipidation, enable cells to regulate the spatiotemporal flow of life-sustaining matter, energy, and information. Our understanding of the biophysical consequences of modifying proteins with lipids—and how lipids regulate protein conformation, function, and signaling—is incomplete. Addressing these questions would enable parsing the contribution of lipidated proteins to biological mechanisms and exploiting their untapped potential as biomaterials/therapeutics. Participants in this project will work with an interdisciplinary team at the interface of chemistry, biotechnology, and materials science. For relevant publications, please visit our website at
Davoud Mozhdehi (Dave Moz), Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry
Syracuse University

Project #11 (Paulsen)
Geometry and mechanics of wrinkles.
Project Description:
A thin yet stiff skin that is compressed from its edges can buckle into a complex pattern of wrinkles. We witness these patterns on a daily basis — from the wrinkles on our skin or the surface of a cup of hot cocoa, to the undulating edge of a flower petal — yet the subtle interplay of geometry and mechanics in wrinkle patterns is still being elucidated. On the scale of individual wrinkles, we would like to understand and control topological defects where two wrinkles merge into one. On a larger scale, we want to understand the global mechanics of wrinkled structures. This project will use model experiments to create controlled wrinkle patterns and characterize their morphology and mechanics, using optical imaging and force measurements. This basic understanding can impact a variety of future applications, as wrinkles can be used to tailor adhesion and wetting, wrinkling must be accounted for when designing wearable technology, and wrinkles can lend insight into the mechanics of biological matter.
Joseph Paulsen, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics
Lab website:
Syracuse University

Project #12 (Patteson)
Title: Biomechanics of biofilm development,
Project Description: Most bacteria live in surface-dwelling multi-cellular colonies known as biofilms. Biofilm growth is widely regarded to depend on physical properties of the underlying substrate, such as substrate stiffness and porosity. Here, we will use synthetic polyacrylamide hydrogels with tunable stiffness and controllable pore size to assess the effects of substrate mechanics on biofilm development. We will use time-lapse microscopy and automatic tracking code to track the growth and form of expanding biofilms of Serratia marcescens. The results will inform models of bacteria transport and provide new principles for designing antifouling materials.
Alison Patteson, Ph.D. (she/her)
Assistant Professor
Department of Physics
Syracuse University

Project #13 (Pepling)
Title: The role of cell adhesion in mouse oocyte development.
Project Description: The reproductive lifespan of the mammalian female is determined by the time of birth. Essential for fertility is the establishment of a finite pool of primordial follicles, or oocytes that are surrounded by a layer of somatic cells called granulosa cells. During primordial follicle formation which occurs perinatally, clusters of oocytes separate into individual cells. Cell adhesion molecules are expressed in the mouse ovary during this process. E-cadherin is expressed in oocytes and its proposed role is to keep oocytes in clusters prior to primordial follicle formation. E-cadherin must then be down regulated for primordial follicle formation to occur. To test this idea, function blocking antibodies against E-cadherin will be used in mouse ovary organ culture. After culture, ovaries will be labeled with an oocyte marker and analyzed by confocal microscopy.
Melissa Pepling, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
Syracuse University

Project #14 (Ren)
Title: Engineering antifouling materials to improve the safety of medical devices.
Project Description: Millions of medical devices are implanted in humans each year to repair failing body parts and/or provide essential functions. Unfortunately, these abiotic materials are susceptible to microbial colonization that leads to chronic antibiotic resistant infections. During this summer, the REU student will work with other group members to investigate how material properties (especially surface topography) affect bacterial attachment and how to design antifouling materials. The student will learn knowledge and experiment skills of material preparation, micro-patterning, bacterial culturing, and imaging.
Dacheng Ren, Ph.D.
Stevenson Endowed Professor
Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering
Syracuse University

Project #15 (You)
Title:  Materials-based Control of Microbial Horizontal Gene Transfer
Project Description:  Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is a natural process widespread among microbes where genetic elements are passed from a donor cell to a recipient cell of the same or distinct species. HGT equips microbes with remarkable evolutionary adaptability in a changing environment but can also lead to odious aftermaths, such as the spread of antibiotic resistance. Participants in this project will work with other group members to investigate composite materials as a measure to control bacterial HGT, integrating biotechnology, chemistry, and data science.
Yaqi You, Ph.D. (pronouns she/her/hers)
Assistant Professor,
Environmental Resources Engineering
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Lab website: