Aug. 2, 2016 - Congratulations to Surafel Argaw, Kwasi Amofa, and Marc Shuler for winning 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes respectively at the REU Poster Presentations during the 2016 EBICS Annual Retreat! Sufafel, Kwasi, and Marc entered their EBICS REU journeys with different backgrounds of lab experience, but by the end of their 10-weeks, all returned to their home institutions similarly affected: encouraged by their expanded skill sets, inspired by the work and advice of their mentors and PIs, and grateful for the opportunities and the network afforded to them through the EBICS community.Surafel and Marc both worked in Platt Lab this summer. Surafel, an electrical and computer engineering major, attended Georgia Perimeter Community College for the first two years of his undergraduate studies, but will start his junior year at Georgia Tech in Fall 2016. His EBICS REU experience amplified his excitement to attend Georgia Tech and continue working in Platt Lab: "Dr. Platt and my mentors have worked hard to make sure that I use all my potential and prepared me well for the final presentation of my topic. I was so surprised on the fact that I won the competition because I saw many of other students projects displayed. But I am grateful and thankful that my work was selected." Marc, a bioengineering major starting his junior year at Pennsylvania State University, was first introduced to EBICS when he worked in Platt Lab in summer 2015. His success at the REU Poster Presentations further motivates him to work hard: "The program has granted me the opportunity to conduct high quality research and think critically about my results. I also sharpened my ability to effectively communicate and present my research to a variety of audiences. It is rewarding to see my preparation and efforts recognized by the judges, but placing 3rd only makes me more determined and anxious for my next opportunity to take home the gold."For Kwasi, a biomedical engineering major starting his senior year at Western New England University, EBICS REU in the Hammond and Griffith labs was his first-ever REU experience. His 2nd place recognition at the Poster Presentations represents his perseverance through a steep learning curve. From learning how to pipette to the recent news of his selection to present at 2016 BMES, Kwasi reflects on the impact of this summer on his trajectory: "Prior to this experience, pursuing a PhD in Biological or Biomedical Engineering was not an option I was considering. I could not thank [Marianna Sofman] enough for great guidance and support to help me quickly learn the ropes within this field of research. I plan on building upon everything I have learned from this experience to grow as a scientist and help to open doors to others just as the EBICS program has done for me."Surafel, Marc, and Kwasi are all eager to continue the work they started this summer in their future studies, and all plan on pursuing PhDs in their respective fields.
Highlights from the 2016 EBICS Annual Retreat
July 31 - Aug. 2, 2016 - 87 members of the EBICS community including faculty, trainees, REUs, External Advisory Committee (EAC), Industry Advisory Committee (IAC), and staff, participated in the 2016 EBICS Annual Retreat at the Q Center in St. Charles, IL. Highlights of the Retreat include:• Presentations on diversity and education in EBICS, the Student Leadership Council (SLC), and all seven working group research presentations• Natasha Arora and Marianna Sofman's presentation of their Technology Conceptualization Plan• Discussion of Ethics Module 4: Emergent Behavior• Trainee and REU poster presentations• Discussion within working group breakout sessions• Keynote Address by Dr. Kristin Fabre, AstraZenecaFor your entertainment - watch the trainee & REU Knockerball activity! Video courtesy of Simone Douglas.
Goals and impacts of the 1st International Workshop on Engineering Living Systems
Aug. 3-4, 2016 - The 1st International Workshop on Engineering Living Systems convened a cadre of 60 forward-looking thought-leaders across a variety of expertise including: industry, stem cell biology, developmental biology, synthetic biology, tissue chip engineering, robotics, and ethics, whose primary goal is the exploration of the ethical and research implications that arise from the EBICS mission to develop the capability to design, engineer and produce complex integrated cellular systems or "biological machines" that solve real-world problems in health, security, and the environment.Critical to the successful design of such engineered cellular systems is a fundamental understanding of the interactions between cells and their environment, their control by biochemical and mechanical cues, and the coordinated behavior of functional cell clusters. Examples range from biological robots to organs-on-a-chip, and have broad applications across medicine, manufacturing, agriculture, and energy management, among other disciplines. Whether we achieve this through a "bottom-up" or a "top-down" approach, the basic cellular building blocks can all be derived from pluripotent sources.In discussing the ethical and research implications of these complex biological interactions, the emergent behaviors they produce, and the ultimate creation of biological machines engineered to perform specific, targeted functions, 2016 Workshop participants agreed to leverage the following broader impacts:• A position paper on Engineered Living Systems for wide dissemination• A proposal for a new EFRI call on: Advanced manufacturing processes for multicellular machines Reduced functionality cells for ELSs• New collaborations and potential partnerships• Avenues for continuing EBICS activities• Transitioning to a regular meeting (e.g. GRC)• Possibility for a new journal• Recruiting EBICS Distinguished Visiting Scholars• Forging new international collaborations (a "virtual center")• Providing trainees a broader perspective of EBICS-centric activities worldwide The Workshop on Engineering Living Systems will tentatively next assemble in 2018.
Sebastien Uzel led development of a microfluidic device that replicates the connection between muscles and nerves
Aug. 3, 2016 - During his graduate studies at MIT, Sebastien Uzel, now a postdoc at Harvard, led the work on creating a quarter-sized microfluidic device, that allows researchers to influence and observe the interactions between the muscle tissue and motor neurons within a realistic, three-dimensional matrix. Previously, to simulate the neuromuscular junction in the lab, researchers grew muscle and nerve cells in shallow Petri dishes or on small glass substrates. To recreate more realistic in vitro neuromuscular junctions, Uzel and his colleagues, which includes EBICS faculty Prof. Roger Kamm, Prof. Laurie Boyer, and former EBICS trainee Vincent Chan, fabricated two important features in their microfluidic device: a three-dimensional environment, and compartments that separate muscles from nerves to mimic their natural separation in the human body. The researchers suspended muscle and neuron cells in the millimeter-sized compartments, which they then filled with gel to mimic a three-dimensional environment.The research results, published online in Science Advances, may help scientists understand and identify drugs to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), as well as other neuromuscular-related conditions, and could even be tailored to individual patients.Sebastien and his coauthors have submitted a patent application for their microfluidic device.- Adapted from the original article by Jennifer Chu, MIT News
Meghan Ferrall-Fairbanks and Dayne West lead teams to receive top prize at PrePARE Professional Development Workshop
Aug. 7-12, 2016 - EBICS trainees Meghan Ferrall-Fairbanks (GT), Nicole Madfis (UC Merced), Tanya Singh (CCNY), and Dayne West (GT) attended the Paths Afforded by the Research Enterprise (PrePARE) Professional Development Workshop in Indianapolis, IN. During this week-long workshop, trainee representatives from all the NSF STCs were taught a wide range of important professional skills, including communicating your science in presentations and interviews, creating individualized development plans, and dining interview etiquette, to succeed in both academic and industrial careers. In addition to these skills, participants divided into six multi-institutional interdisciplinary teams to each write an NSF RFA proposal to address a grand challenge. Meghan's team proposed to develop a new biomaterial that can be used to protect against coastal erosion. Dayne's team proposed improvements to the reduce-reuse-recycle triangle, by making all plastics recyclable. After all six teams presented their proposals, Meghan and Dayne's teams were selected as winners of the Amazon gift card prize. Congratulations to both!
Simone Douglas receives Sloan Fellowship
Aug. 26, 2016 - Simone Douglas was named as a 2016 Sloan Scholar as part of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Minority Ph.D. (MPHD) Program. Simone is a 2nd year Ph.D. student, mentored by Prof. Manu Platt, in the biomedical engineering program at Georgia Tech and Emory University. In EBICS, she is a member of the Student Leadership Council (SLC) and is currently researching alternative fibrinolysis pathways in the Vascularization Working Group, to characterize and control fibrin degradation in vascularized constructs. The Sloan Foundation was created in 1995 to "assist efforts to diversify the U.S. Ph.D. degree-holding workforce by increasing the recruitment, retention, and graduation of underrepresented minority doctoral students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics." This year's applicant pool was strong and competitive; only eight students were selected from Georgia Tech to be nominated to the Sloan Foundation. Congratulations Simone!
Clare Ko receives training grant, The Tissue Microenvironment (TiMe) Training Program, supported by NIH
Aug. 25, 2016 - Clare Ko, EBICS trainee at UIUC mentored by Prof. Hyunjoon Kong, was selected from a strong applicant pool across UIUC to receive one of eight TiMe Training Program grants, which awards recipients up to two years of funding from the NIH, and provides recipients with curricular, extracurricular, professional development, and career development activities. The TiMe Training program aims to integrate three technological approaches: sensing and imaging to measure biochemical and biophysical parameters, bioengineering to recapitulate the tissue microenvironment, and computational modeling. Currently, Clare contributes to two EBICS Working Groups: Pump-Bot, in which her project is assembling a self-activated pump system that can transfer fluid, and Neuron-Muscle, in which she is engineering NMJ in vitro using nano-patterned substrates. Congratulations Clare!
NPR's Science Friday interviews Ritu Raman about UIUC's bio-bot research in their segment "Predicting the Future of Robotics"
July 22, 2016 - "And as engineers build squishy biological-machine hybrids, with mouse muscles and sea slug mouthparts, how far are we from creating truly living machines? A look at the future of 'bio-bots' and the unintended consequences of combining flesh, neurons, and mechanical parts." - Science Friday
Caroline Cvetkovic completes the Clinical and Translational Research Course at the NIH Clinical Center
July 22, 2016 - Caroline Cvetkovic was selected as part of a 28-member cohort to participate in the two-week intensive Clinical and Translational Research course at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. "The purpose of the course is to demonstrate the role of PhD scientists in clinical and translational research, provide an overview and examples of how basic science and clinical observations lead to translational research, and increase awareness and access to Ph.D. role models, research resources, and potential career opportunities at the NIH." - NIH Clinical Center
UIUC REU presents their posters at the Illinois Summer Research Symposium
July 21-22, 2016 - EBICS REU students at Illinois participated in the Illinois Summer Research Symposium (ISRS). This annual event brings together nine summer research programs that support the inclusion and participation of students from U.S. populations underrepresented in graduate study. All members of UIUC REU presented their research through presentations and poster sessions and participated in networking and social activities. The ISRS draws more than 120 students from across a variety of disciplines.