We use a combination of molecular, cellular, immunohistochemical, electrophysiological, genetic and behavioral approaches to understand how the nervous system receives, transmits and interprets various stimuli to induce physiological and behavioral responses. We are particularly interested in the basic mechanisms underlying somatosensation, including pain, itch and mechanical sensations. Somatosensation is initiated by the activation of the primary sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglia and trigeminal ganglia. We have discovered the molecular identity of itch-sensing neurons in the peripheral and provided novel insights into the mechanisms of itch sensation (Han et.al. 2013 Nature Neuroscience). We are currently investigating how chronic itch associated with cutaneous or systemic disorders is initiated and transmitted.
We are also interested in the sensory innervation in the respiratory system. Chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are leading causes of illness and significant public health burdens. We recently identified a subset of vagal sensory neurons mediating bronchoconstriction and airway hyperresponsiveness (Han et. al. 2017 Nature Neuroscience). We are investigating how the sensory innervations in the airway contribute to the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases.
The research interests of Dr. Niu focus on conebeam CT scanner design and spectral CT algorithm development, connected by the current need for clinical onboard and high volume data analysis. He has been involved with customized conebeam CT scanner and artifacts correction, iterative reconstruction algorithm, spectral CT imaging and optimization, radiomics analysis in treatment evaluation.
We develop spectroscopic coherent Raman microscopy methods and apply them to biological, biotechnology, and biomedical problems. We are currently working on improving speed, precision, and simplicity of broadband coherent Raman scattering (BCARS) microscopy techniques. On the biology side, we are applying these coherent Raman microscopy techniques to understand mechanism of viral replication in human cells, and lipid metabolism in C. elegans, and to characterize cell phenotype for cell manufacturing applications. On the biomaterials and pharmaceutics side, we use coherent Raman imaging to map chemical distributions and interactions. Here we also use a Raman-derived readout of THz-range dynamic processes to predict rates of reaction and degradation in condensed matter systems.
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.
Computational Ophthalmology, Machine Learning, Image/Video Processing, Computer Vision, Perception, Scene Understanding, Seismic Interpretation, Learning in the Wild, Learning for Autonomous Vehicles, Medical Image Analysis,