ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering has announced the members of its inaugural Early Career Board. This initiative will provide young investigators with guidance and insight into the editorial process as they pursue their independent research careers. Over the course of a three-year term, the journal will foster professional mentoring relationships between its established Editorial Advisory […]

ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering has announced the members of its inaugural Early Career Board. This initiative will provide young investigators with guidance and insight into the editorial process as they pursue their independent research careers. Over the course of a three-year term, the journal will foster professional mentoring relationships between its established Editorial Advisory Board members and Editors and the “in-training” Early Career Board.

Learn More About the New ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering Early Career Board Members:

Abigail S. Knight

During graduate school she developed a combinatorial screening platform for identifying peptoid ligands with the ability to selectively bind metal ions of interest in various applications. Her postdoctoral work at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with Craig Hawker has focused on developing polymeric materials with unique architectures and both biological and materials applications. In the summer of 2018, Knight returned to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to join the Chemistry Department as an Assistant Professor with research developing materials with the functionality of biological molecules and physical properties of synthetic polymers.

Q: What has been the most rewarding moment in your career as a scientist or engineer?
A: The most rewarding moment in my career so far has been the last few months of starting as an assistant professor. I have always loved working with students, and in the past few months that has been a much more significant part of my job description. Three undergraduate students have already joined my research group, and scientific discussions with them and prospective graduate students have been really exciting.

Ann-Christin Pöppler

She was based first at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen with Professor A. Lange and then at the University of Warwick, U.K., with Professor S.P. Brown. In her current position as a junior professor at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, she wants to use as well as expand the versatile NMR toolbox to look at polymeric drug delivery systems both from the solid-state and solution point of view, with the aim of gaining an increased understanding of the structure and assembly of these complex host-guest systems.

Apart from sitting at the spectrometer, Pöppler enjoys teaching and training of students both in the lecture hall as well as in the workgroup and is also happy to be part of the SMASH small molecule NMR conference Organizing Committee since the end of 2017.

Q: What has been the most rewarding moment in your career as a scientist or engineer?
A: When the students said that they learned lots in the lecture, on one hand; and the moment when I understand a chemical system better based on our data, on the other hand.

Behzad Babaei

His first area of focus is on the problem of how mechanical regulation of cell and extracellular matrix mechanics drives both physiological processes, such as wound healing and development, and pathological processes such as fibrosis. Key open questions are how the detailed relationship between mechanics and biological processes such as growth, remodeling, and repair are regulated and inter-related.

The second area of focus involves modeling wave propagation in viscoelastic media for validation of anisotropic magnetic resonance elastography methods. This work would enable physicians to non-invasively measure tissue biomechanical changes associated with early onset of fibrosis of the liver, lungs, heart, and kidney, and with the early onset of cancer in these soft tissues as well as the brain, breast, and bladder.

The third area of focus relates to tissue engineering. A major limitation of many tissue engineering applications and of all existing artificial graft technologies is scarring. By optimizing synthetic grafts to match the anisotropic and viscoelastic properties of the underlying tissues, he aims to transform reconstructive surgery.

Q: What do you see as the most exciting area of biomaterials research?
A: The most exciting area of biomaterial research for me is synthesizing a biomaterial which is mechanically (considering its anisotropic, viscoelastic and nonlinear properties) tunable.

Boyang Zhang

Later, he pursued a Ph.D. in cardiac tissue engineering under the supervision of Dr. Milica Radisic. Zhang developed the AngioChip technology, which is a microfabricated implantable vascular scaffold. AngioChip was grounded in polymer chemistry and processing and enabled the creation of functional, vascularized heart and liver tissue models for organ-on-a-chip engineering in drug discovery, and tissue implantation in regenerative medicine. His research interest lies in the innovation of advanced biofabrication techniques integrated with insight from developmental biology to develop advanced in vitro tissue models for drug discovery and innovative strategies in guided tissue assembly for tissue regeneration.

Q: What do you see as the most exciting area of biomaterials research?
A: I am excited about the trend that biomaterials are becoming smarter. Our tissues and organs are dynamic, so should scaffolds and biomaterials. We hope to develop smart biomaterials that are not merely viewed as static skeletons but could structurally transform to guide tissue assembly over multiple length and time scale.

Catherine Fromen

At the University of Delaware, the Fromen Research Group leverages these particle-cell interactions to study pulmonary drug delivery. The group applies engineering fundamentals, innovative tools, and current mucosal immunology to design therapeutic pulmonary aerosols and develop new analytical approaches to improve understanding of inhaled drug delivery. The group’s major research areas are: 1) leveraging 3D printing to advance in vitro tools for pulmonary drug delivery testing, 2) using engineered particles to probe lung biology and immune function, and 3) engineering novel therapeutics for controlled immune stimulation in the lung. Through all of these research areas, Fromen’s research group seeks to improve treatment options for patients with lung diseases.

Q: Who has been the most important mentor in your career?
A: The most important mentor in my career is my graduate advisor, Joe DeSimone. As an early graduate student, Joe would introduce me by saying, “this is Cathy Fromen, she wants to be a professor,” despite my repeated insistence that I was going into industry for a “real job”. He clearly saw potential in me, even when I wasn’t sure of it myself. Then and now, Joe has been an unrelenting advocate for me, supporting my growth as a researcher, professor, and human being. The opportunities and inspirations that he has catalyzed for me have been immeasurable and has set the bar for what mentorship should be. As I begin my own group, I find myself spouting many ingrained Joe-isms and hope to live up to his high standard of leadership to “represent the family well”.

Chengpeng Chen

In August of 2018, Chen moved to the University of Maryland Baltimore County, as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Chen’s research focuses on 3D cell culture in microfluidic devices. Scaffolds such as electrospun fibers and hydrogel are widely used in his lab.

He is also interested in developing new 3D printing protocols to create biomimic fluidic devices. As an analytical chemist, another research focus of his is in situ and real-time quantitation.

Christopher M. Madl

Q: What do you see as the most exciting areas of biomaterials research?
A: I am most excited by recent efforts to recapitulate the complex spatiotemporal aspects of the native extracellular matrix in engineered systems. Advancements in polymer chemistry, molecular biology, and materials fabrication techniques are beginning to enable the production of engineered matrices that present complex biochemical and mechanical signals and respond to cell-mediated and user-directed inputs. Such materials will find applications in traditional tissue engineering approaches as well as drug screening platforms for personalized medicine.

Christopher V. Synatschke

During this time, he had the opportunity to work as a visiting scientist in research groups at the University of New South Wales, Australia, and the University of Tokyo, Japan. Then in 2014, he joined the group of Professor Samuel Stupp at Northwestern University as an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow. This gave him the opportunity to work in a highly interdisciplinary team with a focus on supramolecular instead of “conventional” polymers. In this role, he was introduced to the field of regenerative medicine.

In 2017, he joined the team of Professor Tanja Weil at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Germany, where he now pursues his research on biomaterials as a group leader.

Q: What has been the most rewarding moment in your career as a scientist or engineer?
A: I have had the honor of mentoring several bright, young students as part of my own scientific career. The times when motivated students engage in new ideas and challenge me during scientific discussions is the most rewarding part of my work.

Erica B. Peters

She was previously a postdoc at the University of Colorado’s Soft Matter Research Center where she investigated the cytocompatibility of PEGylated ‘clickable’ synthetic nucleic acids for gene delivery. Her career goal is to become an independent investigator developing advanced therapeutic biofunctional materials to resolve cardiovascular disease.

Q: What do you see as the most exciting area of biomaterials research?
A: I am very excited about the recent advancements in biomaterials for nanomedicine. In particular, the progress in developing nanomaterials that can interact with cells in more sophisticated ways. We are learning how to regulate the intracellular microenvironment by delivering biomaterials that contain gene-editing tools like CRISPR-Cas9, as well as developing materials that can manipulate the spatial presentation and activation of endogenous proteins through force-loading. In addition, utilizing logic gate systems to couple extracellular and intracellular-responsive nanomaterials are enabling therapeutic “circuits” that more precisely deliver drugs and regulate cellular responses, ultimately allowing us to engineer biomaterials that can truly sense, guide, and regulate tissue growth and repair.

Greeshma Thrivikraman

During her Ph.D. tenure, Greeshma received the Boehringer Ingelheim Fond Travel Grant to undertake a collaborative research project at the Max Bergmann Center for Biomaterials, TU Dresden, Germany. For her postdoc, she was awarded the Canadian Institute of Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship, which she declined for her current position. Greeshma’s postdoctoral work is centered on engineering 3D cellular microenvironments to fabricate synthetic vascularized bone model to study bone function, disease progression and pharmacological response. Greeshma has authored 2 book chapters and over 18 peer-reviewed research publications in high impact journals including Biomaterials, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces and Advanced Healthcare Materials. She has also won young researcher awards at several International conferences.

Q: What has been the most rewarding moment in your career as a scientist or engineer?
A: I have had several rewarding experiences during my graduate studentship as well as my early postdoc career. The most rewarding moment was when I received my doctoral degree from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India’s premier research institute. Apart from that, the publication of my research results in high impact peer-reviewed journals such as Biomaterials, Advanced Healthcare Materials, and ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, a short-term internship at the MaxBergmann Center for Biomaterials at TU Dresden, Germany, supported by the Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds and my selection into the ACS Biomaterial Science & Engineering early career advisory board have been momentous career rewarding experiences.

Jingjie Yeo

Q: What has been the most rewarding moment in your career as a scientist or engineer?
A: My most rewarding moments are publishing or presenting research results that bore fruit from collaborative, multidisciplinary efforts. These efforts always encompass new perspectives, new friendships, and lasting scientific impact.

Jorge Almodovar

Q: Who has been the most important mentor in your career?
A: I have had a number of significant mentors throughout my academic career that it is impossible to pinpoint one. My Ph.D. advisor (Dr. Matt Kipper), my postdoctoral advisor (Dr. Catherine Picart), colleagues from the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez (Dr. Madeline Torres-Lugo and Dr. Aldo Acevedo), colleagues from other institutions (Dr. Andres Garcia), and current colleagues at the University of Arkansas have all positively impacted my career.

Jun Deng

His primary research interest is in functional material surface construction and its application in early diagnosis and treatment of diseases. He has published 20 peer-reviewed papers as the first author or corresponding author, with a total impact factor of over 100. He has achieved a patent conversion of over 2 million RMB, 1 book and given some keynote and plenary lectures globally. He runs a prolific research program with funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), Army of China, and Army Medical University for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine.

Q: What do you see as the most exciting area of biomaterials research?
A: In my view, the most exciting area of biomaterials research should be the nanobiotechnology, which refers to the intersection of nanotechnology and biology.

Kelsey M. Kennedy

Now at the Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering at Columbia, University, she is applying imaging- and biomechanics-based approaches to tissue engineering to help drive technical innovation in osteochondral disease modeling and to enable translation of microphysiological systems for the study of cancer metastasis. Prior to joining Columbia in 2017, Dr. Kennedy completed her Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame and her Ph.D. at the University of Western Australia. During her Ph.D., she co-founded OncoRes Medical, a medical imaging startup that is commercializing a device for detecting the tumor boundaries during breast cancer surgery.

Mohammad Mahdi Hasani-Sadrabadi

Over this period, he also collaborated with UCLA School of Chemistry and UCLA Dental School to develop new biomimetic materials and biomaterials for craniofacial tissue regeneration. He started his research experience back in 2005 by working on tuning the physicochemical characteristics of polyelectrolytes based on the biopolymers. He then tried to develop functional materials as biomimetic ion-conductor membranes for power generation, drug delivery applications and lately for tissue engineering and immunoengineering applications.

Recently, he has started his appointment as an Assistant Project Scientist in the Bioengineering Department at UCLA for developing novel biomaterial-based approaches to improve immunotherapy.

Mariana B. Oliveira

Her main research interests include the development of biomaterial-based regenerative strategies, with main emphasis on bone regeneration. Oliveira has also been dedicated to the design of miniaturized systems to assess cell-biomaterials interactions, assembly of tailor-made bioreactors for cell response modulation, and development of new biomaterials processing techniques. Currently, she is also focused on the development of biomaterials for the encapsulation of pancreatic cells tackling the treatment of diabetes.

Oliveira is the principal investigator of a research project awarded by the Portuguese agency for science and technology (FCT). For the last two years, she has been the main supervisor and integrated the supervision teams of students of different academic degrees. Mariana authors and co-authors more than 30 scientific publications.

Q: What do you see as the most exciting area of biomaterials research?
A: The most exciting aspect of biomaterials research for me is the ability to merge well-established and recently discovered concepts of tissues and organ systems’ physiology with technology to achieve effective designs for regeneration and disease therapies. I am interested in the deconstruction and isolation of striking factors that drive the efficacy of biomaterial-based cell-modulating systems.

Md “NABI” Nurunnabi

Q: Who has been the most important mentor in your career?
A: My pre-doctoral mentors; Professor Yong-kyu Lee (Korea National University of Transportation) and Professor You Han Bae (University of Utah), have been the most important mentors for my career.

Neelkanth M. Bardhan

Q: Who has been the most important mentor in your career?
A:I believe that my Ph.D. dissertation advisor, Professor Angela Belcher, has been the most important mentor in nnb career. Professor Belcher has taught me the importance of being able to dream big, and challenge the conventional wisdom even in the face of doubting critics, backed up by solid research and facts-based evidence.

Neus Feliu

She is currently a Research Associate at the Center for Hybrid Nanostructures, Hamburg University. Her research focuses on the synthesis and characterization of micro- and nanoparticles, with the aim to develop smart multifunctional materials for a wide range of bio-applications including sensing and delivery. In particular, her interest focuses on better understanding the interactions and correlations of materials with biological systems involving biocompatibility studies with living cells and explore their use in the medical field.

Q: Who has been the most important mentor in your career
A: During my career I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet wonderful, knowledgeable, and encouraging mentors, who helped me to build my career in both personal and professional aspects. My special thanks goes to my Ph.D. co-supervisior Professor Andreas Nyström, an enormous source of inspiration, extremely knowledgeable, and one of the most honest persons I have met. He has helped me to stand out in challenging situations, and had a long-lasting, positive, and stimulating impact on me.

Nuria Oliva-Jorge

She then spent a year at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School as a NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellow. She is currently a TECNIOspring PLUS Postdoctoral Fellow, within the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action (Horizon 2020) and ACCIO funding (Generalitat de Catalunya), working in a collaborative project between Imperial College London and Institut Quimic de Sarria. Nuria’s work focuses on the development of smart nanomaterials for controlled delivery of growth factors for wound healing and bone regeneration.

Q: What has been the most rewarding moment in your career as a scientist or engineer?
A: A few weeks ago, after giving a talk at the New Scientist Live festival, a young girl approached me and told me that she loved my research and she wanted advice on what degree to study to do the research I do. Knowing that I have inspired a young woman to pursue a career in STEM is definitely the most rewarding moment in my career as a scientist, and I work every day to continue to inspire more girls to follow their dreams and realize they can be anything they set their minds to.

Rachel Letteri

Q: What do you see as the most exciting area of biomaterials research?
A: Interfacing modular, highly tunable materials with complex, highly functional biological systems to enable regenerative medicine is an incredibly exciting area of biomaterials research that integrates a broad range of biomaterials and a rich diversity of techniques, approaches and researchers to improve the lives of patients. It is tremendously inspiring and fulfilling to have the opportunity to work with, mentor, and learn from researchers across medicine, biology, chemistry, physics, material science, and engineering to continuously advance the state-of-the art materials, therapies, measurement and characterization tools, and computational methods needed to address this grand challenge.

Rong Yang

Her research focuses on the design of functional materials that interface with bacteria and influence their behavior, including generating vapor-based technologies for surface modifications with molecular-level precision. Applications of the modified surfaces range from lowering the cost of seawater desalination to reducing implant-related infections. The vapor techniques are scalable; the functional surfaces are thus transferrable to industrial production.

She is also interested in understanding surface interactions from a fundamental perspective. The vapor-deposited functional materials can be easily integrated into the state-of-the-art technological platforms. This allows for quantifying bacteria-surface interactions on the piconewton level, to develop methodologies to capture the spatial-temporal evolution of biofilm formation, and measure its density and viscoelastic properties in situ. Later research at Harvard Medical School focused on developing infectious disease treatments using his material design expertise. She works with otitis media, the most common reason for antibiotic prescriptions to U.S. children, and developed a local treatment that eliminates systemic antibiotic exposure. The treatment is under preparation for human clinical trials.

Her research program focuses on vapor-deposited biointerfaces for healthcare and sustainability. Her efforts have been directed towards understanding bacteria-surface interactions on a molecular level and applying the insight to developing therapeutic platforms for infectious diseases, such as surface-engineered nanoparticle- and membrane-based therapies.

Q: What do you see as the most exciting area of biomaterials research?
A: I am most excited about controlling biofilm phenotype via surface modifications. The insight into how bacteria respond to surface properties could allow us to harness the biosynthesis capability of biofilms while suppressing fouling and pathogenicity. The insight could also shed light on the evolution and principles of multicellularity.

Shane Browne

He is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of bioengineering at the University of California Berkeley under Professor Kevin Healy. His research interests include the development and testing of biomaterials for the delivery of therapeutics and semi-synthetic extracellular matrices for the delivery of stem cell-derived cells for therapeutic vascularisation. His postdoctoral work has been funded by prestigious fellowships from the Irish Research Council and the American Heart Association.

He has authored manuscripts in leading journals in the field and has presented his research at both national and international conferences. In addition, he has been awarded the European Doctoral Award by the European Society for Biomaterials.

Shengjie Ling

He obtained his B.S. degree from the Zhejiang University of Technology (2009) and Ph.D. from Fudan University (2014).

During 2012-2013, He awarded the State Scholarship Fund of China to pursue his study at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, as a joint Ph.D. student.

Prior to joining ShanghaiTech University, he worked as a postdoctoral associate at MIT and Tufts University (2014-2017).

Q: What do you see as the most exciting area of biomaterials research?
A: The most exciting area of biomaterials research for me is to integrate computational modeling, experimental characterization and synthesis to produce biomaterials with optimized “structure-property-function” relationships. The combination of computational modeling and experimental techniques provides synergistic support to design a material from the atomic- to macro-scale, and all biomaterials are included in such region.

Tushar Kumeria

His research expertise lies in nanoporous materials and their composite for applications in photonics, sensing, and drug delivery. His current research focus is on:

  1. Porous silicon based delivery systems for highly efficient and targeted delivery of protein/biologics via oral or other administration route.
  2. Porous silicon/Polymer composite and porous titanium dioxide based scaffolds/implants that enable local release of therapeutics and growth factors for accelerated bone regeneration,
  3. Porous silicon or porous alumina photonic crystals based point-of-care sensors for diagnostics and environmental applications.

Q: Who has been the most important mentor in your career?
A: My most important mentors is my postdoc advisor Professor M. J. Sailor at University of California-San Diego. I have not only learnt about science, but also management of a great group/team.

Wei Zhang

Her research mainly focuses on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, which involve interdisciplinary studies of biomedicine, materials science and clinical medicine. Her research utilizes stem cells, biomaterials (silk and collagen) and signals (physical stimuli and bioactive factors) to promote the repair and regeneration of cartilage, bone, skin, cornea and abdominal tissue etc. She works both on basic research and translational research from scaffold fabrication, in vitro evaluation, biocompatibility evaluation, small animal study, large animal study, controlled clinical trial to medical device registration. These findings will promote the development of effective regenerative medicine therapies to treat common tissue injuries, and facilitate the translation of innovative researches from bench to bedside.

Q: What has been the most rewarding moment in your career as a scientist or engineer?
A: Three years ago I was involved in a translational research of a novel biomaterials-based scaffold. This scaffold was used on 36 patients with large skin wounds and effectively promoted the wound healing speed and reduced the occurrence of adverse events. At that time I recognized that what I researched could really help the patients and improve their quality of life.

Yi-Cheun Yeh

Towards this goal, her lab will develop programmable nanocomposite hydrogels through the integration of polymer synthesis and surface functionalization of nanoparticles. The interface of nanoparticles and polymers will be tailored and manipulated with multiple chemical approaches to present dynamic and user-defined features. The utilization of diverse chemistry on both nanomaterials and biomaterials provides a potent strategy in creating versatile hybrid materials to engage in the cutting edge Material-Biology research, and to serve as a promising platform for next-generation smart materials for biomedical applications.

Q: What do you see as the most exciting area of biomaterials research?A: I think the most exciting area of biomaterials research would be the use of biofabrication techniques to construct biomimetic environment for tissue engineering.

Yun Xiao

Xiao participated in developing the Biowire system, a novel ‘heart-on-a-chip’ platform for predictive cardiac drug testing, which is being commercialized by TARA Biosystems. In collaboration with cardiac surgeons, she demonstrated for the first time that one can rejuvenate mesenchymal stem cells from aged human patients using biomaterials and this work was published and highlighted in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

In her work published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Xiao demonstrated that the hydrogel with covalently immobilized QHREDGS promoted wound healing by enhancing cell survival and epithelial cell migration both in vivo and in vitro.

Xiao is currently working on developing biomaterials that present biophysical cues with improved spatiotemporal control and modulating cell-microenvironment interactions under dynamic mechanical loadings such as in musculoskeletal system.

Want the latest stories delivered to your inbox each month?