Our study focuses on Soft Active Materials especially those consisting both solid and liquid, such as gels, cells and soft biological tissues. Our research is at the interface between mechanics and materials chemistry. Our studies span from fundamental mechanics to novel applications.
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.
Costas Arvanitis’ research investigates the therapeutic applications of ultrasound with an emphasis on brain cancer, and central nervous system disease and disorders. His research is focused on understanding the biological effects of ultrasound and acoustically induced microbubble oscillations (acoustic cavitation) and using them to study complex biological systems, such as the neurovascular network and the tumor microenvironment, with the goal of developing novel therapies for the treatment of cancer and central nervous system diseases and disorders.
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.