Potential Mentors and Research Areas

Borys Drach
Assistant Professor
Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Dr. Drach’s research deals with mechanics of heterogeneous materials including composite and porous materials. I focus on simulation of mechanical and coupled problems in complex microstructures to infer properties and non-linear behavior of materials. I am interested in soft and hard materials including biomaterials (bones and tissues). For example, a potential project could focus on structural optimization of porous titanium for patient-specific implants (tailored stiffness, strength and improved osseointegration).

 

Dr. Reza Foudazi
Principal Investigator of SMaRT (Soft Matter Research & Technology) lab 
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering

Dr. Foudazi’s research areas are (1) polymer synthesis and characterization, (2) colloid and interface science, including emulsions, liposomes, bilayer, self-assembly, encapsulation, (3) rheology and viscoelasticity of complex fluids, including biofluids, blood, protein solutions, mucus, etc. My research is mainly experimental in nature. My lab is equipped with rheometer for viscoelastic measurement, differential scanning calorimetry for studying thermal transitions, dielectric spectroscopy to measure conductivity and relaxation behavior, and mechanical tester. Some potential projects for graduate students in NIH RISE are but not limited to: (1) scaffolds (including 3D printing if needed) for tissue engineering, (2) drug encapsulation and targeted delivery, and (3) medical diagnosis through measuring rheology of biofluids.

 

Dr. Boris Kiefer
Professor
Department of Physics

Dr. Kiefer’s core research expertise is in the area of modelling of material properties. These computational models allow us to evaluate actual and hypothetical materials. I am particularly interested in the exploration if and if so under what circumstances it is possible to break C-C bonds in giant carbon fullerenes. Previous computational work shows that C-C bond breaking is possible. Our preliminary results corroborate these findings in the presence of stickiness to a substrate, pH value, and laminar flow. Thus, if this observation can be substantiated by further simulations and eventually experiments this work can be transformative for bio engineering and drug delivery.

 

Dr. Kevin Houston
Associate Professor
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (SERM), tamoxifen, acts as an ERα antagonist in breast cancer and is the most widely used adjuvant treatment for breast cancer patients.  However, some breast cancers are insensitive to tamoxifen treatment and most breast cancers develop resistance over time.   Tamoxifen is an agonist for the membrane-bound G protein-coupled estrogen receptor 1 (GPER1) and this receptor has been implicated in the acquisition of tamoxifen resistance in breast cancer cells.  Little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying the altered sensitivity.  The working hypothesis in my group is that GPER1 plays an important factor of the sensitivity of  breast cancer cells to tamoxifen.  A major research goal in my laboratory is to define the role of GPER1 in tamoxifen treated breast cancer cells.

 

Marat R. Talipov
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The research activities in Dr. Talipov’s lab focus on achieving a detailed understanding of the molecular electronic structures, excited states, reaction intermediates, and transition states of various chemical reactions for the design of better catalysts, materials, and drugs.

 

Jessica P. Houston, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Chemical & Materials Engineering

Dr. Jessica Houston’s laboratory uses flow cytometry to characterize single cells for a variety of applications. We study cell function, growth, morphology, signaling, interaction with therapeutics, and how intracellular bioprobes can be best utilized to identify protein activity and expression. Many of our projects include cancer cell types but we also measure non-cancer mammalian cells, bacteria, yeast, and even microspheres (spherical polymer-based materials). We engineer cytometry systems that measure fluorescence dynamics in order to maximize the parameters (i.e. features) measured from cells with our high throughput instruments. We incorporate fundamental disciplines of biophysics, biomedical sciences, signal processing, and engineering to answer questions related to cell-to-cell heterogeneity.

 

Erik Yukl
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The Yukl lab studies bacterial proteins that mediate zinc import and nitric oxide / oxidative stress sensing. These processes are essential for virulence among pathogenic bacteria. We use various biophysical and spectroscopic techniques including structure determination by X-ray crystallography.

 

Mary Alice Scott
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology

Dr. Scott’s research is a mixed-methods study to understand the use of a social determinants of  health screening tool in a primary care clinic. The study includes quantitative assessment of medical records and qualitative interviews with patients and providers to better understand how the tool is being used and what challenges patients and providers face in its use. Following the initial exploratory study, we plan to modify the screening tool and provide an educational intervention to improve use of the tool. Improved use of social determinants of health screening tools in clinical settings can help primary care providers better identify and address the social needs their patients have that may be contributing to poor health outcomes. Thus, effective screening tools can aid physicians in addressing health disparities in their patient populations.

 

Joe Song
Professor
Department of Computer Science and Molecular Biology Graduate Program

Dr. Song’s research interests include statistical foundations for pattern discovery, data science algorithm design, and applications to molecular biological systems. He has collaborated with life scientists around the world to discover molecular networks in cancer, brain, plant, and microbe.

Amanda K. Ashley, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Dr. Ashley’s research focuses on replication of genetic information and maintenance of genomic integrity related to cancer biology.

 

Dr. Talayeh Razzaghi
Assistant Professor
Department of Industrial Engineering

Dr. Razzaghi’s research program focuses on the development and use of data-driven analytical models to guide decision making for real-world problems. In her research, she primarily employs the theory of machine learning and data mining. She is particularly interested in settings where decisions must be made based on imperfect and massive datasets. Her research works have been published in several refereed journal articles and conference proceedings.

 

Maria Castillo
Assistant Professor
Department of Biology

Dr. Castillo’s research focuses in the areas of comparative immunology, molluscan biology, and interspecies associations using molecular biology and biochemical techniques.  For the past 20 years I have been involved in biomedical-oriented research investigating immune interactions between animal hosts and their symbionts.  My current research is focused on characterizing the ability of the immune system to differentiate between beneficial versus pathogenic microorganisms.  For this work we utilize two animal model systems: 1) TheHawaiian bobtail squid Euprymna scolopesand its beneficial partner, the luminous bacteria Vibrio fischeri; and 2) The freshwater snail Biomphalaria glabrataand its parasitic trematode, Schistosoma mansoni.  Our research investigates the presence, diversity, and function of the complement system and related proteins in these molluscs, and their potential role in symbiosis (beneficial or pathogenic). The complement system consists of a group of proteins that play an important role in immune processes such as cytolysis, opsonization, inflammation, and linking the innate and adaptive immune systems. Orthologs of several vertebrate complement components were recently identified in invertebrates, suggesting a more primitive origin of these immune components than previously thought and presents an opportunity to study the changes of the immune system through evolution. Studying the expression of these immune proteins during the specific association between the squid Euprymnaand its beneficial bacterial symbionts, and comparing it to that found between the Biomphalariasnails and its parasites offers a unique opportunity to better understand immune interactions between organisms of different species in a variety of contexts going from mutualism to pathogenesis.

 

Immo A. Hansen
Associate Professor
Biology

The Hansen lab does cutting-edge applied- and basic research in molecular biology, molecular physiology, signal transduction, and cell biology of disease-transmitting mosquitoes and other blood-sucking arthropods. The models we use for our research projects are the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, the Asian Tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, and the West-Nile-Virus mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus. We are primarily interested in the molecular mechanisms by which cells and tissues sense nutrients and in response activate signal transduction pathways which regulate expression and/or deactivation of mosquito genes. A second focus of the Hansen lab is on the regulation of water homeostasis in mosquitoes. We also have multiple ongoing successful collaborations with other groups in physiology, entomology, vector biology, physics, computer science, electrical engineering, on and off-campus on related topics including sterile insect technique.