The goal of our research laboratory is to develop novel materials and devices to improve the condition of human health. Our laboratory consists of researchers from many disciplines, including Physics, Chemistry, and diverse areas of engineering such as Materials, Mechanical, Chemical and Electrical Engineering. Currently, our research focuses on two main themes.
Directed Evolution of Materials: Over billions of years, biological systems have evolved into organisms that can perform complex behaviors. In general, evolution requires only three basic elements: mutation (for diversity), selection (for function), and amplification (of the winning species). In our work, we use these evolutionary principles to synthesize new materials that do not exist in nature but can perform complex and useful functions. Our lab has pioneered the use of microfluidics technology and high-throughput sequencing to accelerate the process of directed evolution. In particular, we are interested in evolving polymer materials that can perform molecular recognition and shape-changes (conformation-switching) because these materials offer exciting avenues to improve molecular diagnostics and targeted therapies.
Integrated Biosensors: The capacity to detect specific biomolecules (e.g. nucleic acids, proteins, glycans) at low concentrations directly in complex samples (e.g. tissue, blood, food) is a critical capability for many applications in medicine, defense, food safety, and environmental monitoring. Our lab develops advanced biosensors that are highly sensitive and specific with rapid results. In order to achieve this, we utilize microfluidics technology such that multiple biophysical and biochemical processes can be integrated into a single disposable device which can operate at the point-of-care. Recently, our laboratory pioneered the development of real-time biosensors that can continuously measure specific biomolecules directly in living animals.
These two technologies hold the promise for early detection and personalized treatment for many diseases including Alzheimer’s, cancer, and diabetes.