CBE Faculty Research Groups

Tobias Baumgart Research Group

Research in Tobias’ group is largely centered on the physical chemistry and function of biological membranes. Their aims include characterization of membranes containing lipids and proteins, and they investigate both composition and shape (curvature) heterogeneity. Their research on aspects of membrane shape is directed at understanding how molecules sort in membrane curvature gradients, which likely contributes substantially to intracellular membrane sorting and trafficking. Tobias and his group also use methods to pattern antibodies and adhesion molecules to stimulate cells in a spatially controlled manner. Learn more.

Russell Composto Polymer Research Group

Russ is involved in polymer science and biomolecular engineering research. His interests extend to polymer surfaces and interfaces, adhesion and diffusion, and nanocomposite polymer blend and copolymer films. Russ’s biomaterials work centers around manipulating the surface of polymers to elicit control over protein adsorption, as well as cell adhesion, orientation, and function, and he has an active research program at the interface of polymer science and biomolecular engineering, which combines block copolymer self-assemble as a basis for orienting stiff biological molecules. Learn more.

John Crocker Cell Mechanics and Colloidal Self-Assembly Research Group

John’s research concerns the mechanical properties of small objects, ranging from single molecules to living cells. His nanotechnology work is centered on self-assembly, growing useful devices and structures from smaller parts in a biology-inspired, organic fashion. John uses DNA as a programmable adhesive, directing microscopic parts to spontaneously form a crystal-like ordered pattern. His lab has pioneered new methods for quantifying the mechanical response of both single molecules and cells to small forces. Learn more.

Scott Diamond Lab in the Institute for Medicine and Engineering

Scott’s research involves gene therapy, blood systems biology and protease proteomics, microfluidics and biorheology, endothelial mechanobiology, and high throughput screening. The Diamond lab has pioneered the use of nonclassical nuclear localization sequences and cationic steroids for nonviral DNA delivery, printed chemical microarrays for high throughput screening, and stochastic simulation for blood systems biology. Scott is the founding director of the Penn Center for Molecular Discovery, a multi-disciplinary center designed to discover new biologically useful agents. Learn more.

Dennis Discher Biophysical Engineering & NanoPolymers Research Group

Dennis’ research efforts in the nano/bio realm range from single protein folding mechanics and stem cell biophysics to polymer-based nano-delivery of drugs. His lab has developed novel degradable cylinders known as filomicelles and also degradable polymersomes that shrink tumors and treat genetic diseases. His lab is also advancing dual mode fluorescence scanning force microscopy methods to add compositional insight to imaging and manipulation of single proteins, complexes, and cells. Learn more.

Xue Sherry Gao Biomolecular Engineering Research Group

The Gao laboratory is dedicated to developing highly specific and potent genome-editing tools with broad applications in disease treatment, diagnostics, and novel small-molecule drug exploration. Our research focuses on precision and multiplex CRISPR techniques, offering safe and effective solutions for genetic disorders and enabling microbial and plant genome engineering. Additionally, we are pioneering ultrasensitive viral detection systems to improve diagnostic accuracy and timeliness, especially during pandemics. We aim to advance molecular therapy, genetic engineering, and diagnostics, benefiting the healthcare and biotechnology industries. Learn more.

Raymond Gorte Catalysis and Fuel Cell Research Laboratory

Ray’s current research focuses on electrodes for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) and on oxidation catalysis using mixed-oxides. With SOFC, his lab has developed a method to synthesize electrodes with unprecedented control over composition and nanostructure, fabricating high-performance cells that are able to operate on hydrocarbon fuels. In oxidation catalysis, his group has developed methods to measure the thermodynamic, redox properties of mixed oxides and then determine the effect changes in redox properties have on catalytic properties.

Daniel Hammer Cell Adhesion and Biophysics Laboratory

Dan applies his research in nanometric soft matter to his studies in biology. Working with colleagues, he has forged polymersomes, membranes made of block copolymers, which are soft, vesicle-like nanoparticles for drug delivery and imaging. Dan has also developed a simulation method of adhesion of receptor-coated nanoparticles to surfaces. The method, Brownian Adhesive Dynamics, once applied to viral binding to cell surfaces, is now being used to understand selectivity and targeting in biological applications of nanoparticles. Learn more.

David Issadore Laboratory

David Issadore’s research focus is on microelectronics, microfluidics, nanomaterials and molecular targeting, and their application to medicine. These multidisciplinary skills enable him to explore new technologies that can bring medical diagnostics from expensive, centralized facilities, directly to clinical and resource-limited settings. He has developed hybrid chip designs, a portable NMR system and the micro Hall detector. Learn more.

Dohyung Kim Laboratory of Electrochemistry and Interfaces at the Nanoscale

Dohyung’s lab pursues a diverse array of research activities in electrochemistry with the aim to transition to a sustainable economy of renewable electrons. A strong focus is on the fundamental insights gained at the surfaces and interfaces of nanoscale materials. Those insights are to be leveraged to overcome the critical challenges that limit the efficiency and wide applicability of electrochemical processes. Such challenges are the lack of multi-dimensional control for electrochemical reactions, the inability to boost reaction complexity, and the limited understanding and control of solids in electrochemical environments. Learn more.

Daeyeon Lee Soft Nanomaterials Laboratory

Daeyeon’s research goal is to extend the basic understanding of soft matter such as colloids, polymers, and nanomaterials to fabricate functional structures with properties designed for advanced applications. The techniques used in his lab include layer-by-layer assembly, microfluidics, optical microscopy, electron microscopy, scanning force microscopy, and dissipative quartz crystal microbalance. Using these techniques, the group studies the interactions of various materials at gas-liquid, liquid-liquid and liquid-solid interfaces. Intermolecular and capillary forces between materials are used to generate functional thin films and microcapsules for applications in renewable energy, sustained release, and encapsulation. Learn more.

Amish Patel Research Group

Amish’s research strives to achieve a molecular-level understanding of solvation and transport in aqueous and polymeric systems, with applications ranging from the prediction of protein interactions to the design of advanced materials for water purification and energy storage. It is becoming increasingly evident that water plays an integral role in mediating biomolecular interactions and assembly. The extent to which the inherent structure of water is perturbed by complex biomolecular surfaces, determines the thermodynamics and the kinetics of their assembly. Amish focuses on characterizing this disruption of water structure, with the goal of efficiently predicting protein interactions. Further, how water solvates ions in interfacial and nano-porous environments, bears on the design of membranes for energy-efficient water purification, whereas an understanding of ion solvation and transport in polymeric matrices can help develop better electrolytes for high energy-density batteries.

Ravi Radhakrishnan Molecular Systems Biology through Multiscale Modeling and High-Performance Computing

Ravi’s research interests lie at the interface of chemical physics and molecular biology. His lab’s goal is to provide atomic and molecular level characterization of complex biomolecular systems and formulate quantitatively accurate microscopic models for predicting the interactions of various therapeutic agents with innate biochemical signaling mechanisms. To do so, they employ several computational algorithms ranging from techniques to treat electronic structure, molecular dynamics, Monte Carlo simulations, stochastic kinetic equations, and complex systems analyses in conjunction with the theoretical formalisms of statistical and quantum mechanics, and high performance computing in massively parallel architectures. Learn more.

Robert Riggleman Research Group

Rob’s research is focused on providing a fundamental understanding of how the properties of glassy polymers change when they are confined to freestanding, nanoscale thin films. Many experiments have shown that there is a distribution of glass transition temperatures in thin films, and near free surfaces the dynamics are enhanced and the glass transition temperature decreases. His research group is interested in how confinement affects the aging properties of glassy polymers and antiplasticized polymers. Learn more.

Warren Seider Process Systems Research Group

Warren’s research is in the fields of chemical process analysis, simulation, design, and control. He is recognized for contributions in phase and chemical equilibria, azeotropic distillation, semi-continuous operations, heat and power integration, Czochralski crystallization, nonlinear control, safety and risk analysis. Warren co-authored the highly regarded and definitive text, Product and Process Design Principles: Synthesis, Analysis, and Evaluation, used in engineering schools and industry around the world. Learn more.

Wen Shieh Environmental Research Laboratory

Wen’s research interests are in the area of bioenvironmental engineering. He works on the development of biological engineering processes for environmental applications, such as biological fluidized bed processes for surface and ground water decontaminations and sequencing batch reactor processes for nitrogen removal. In nitrogen removal, he is examining mechanisms for denitrification , such as nitrogen removal of amines and biofilm nitrification/denitrification kinetics. He also focuses his efforts on environmental systems modeling, such as surface and ground water modeling, time series analysis of water and wastewater treatment facilities, and kinetic modeling of biodegradation processes.

Talid Sinno Computational Materials Science Research Group

Talid’s research program is broadly aimed at the theoretical and computational study of nano and microstructural evolution, particularly nucleation and growth, in condensed matter. He is currently pursuing microdefect formation in crystalline semiconductors, colloidal crystallization of micron-scale particles with tunable interactions, and platelet aggregation in blood. Talid’s lab has developed an extensive suite of simulation tools for studying these phenomena, including large-scale molecular dynamics, multiscale kinetic Monte Carlo, and continuum models. Learn more.

Kathleen Stebe Research Group

Kate’s primary research interests are in non-equilibrium interfaces, with applications ranging from microfluidics to nanotechnology. One aspect of her research program focuses on interfaces between fluids and how surfactants can be used to influence interfacial flows. Other aspects address tailoring of solid-liquid interfaces with applications ranging from patterned electrodeposition to capillary-driven assembly and ordering of nanomaterials. Learn more.

John Vohs Research Group

John concentrates his research on understanding the relationships between the local atomic structure of surfaces and their chemical reactivity. He and his group are developing molecular level descriptions of these important surface phenomena, and using insights obtained in fundamental studies of model systems to design nanoscale materials that have reactivities tailored for applications ranging from selective oxidation catalysis to electrodes for solid oxide fuel cells and other electrochemical devices.

Karen Winey Research Group

Karen focuses her polymer nanocomposite research on the development of fundamental structure-property relationships, leading to optimal mechanical, electrical, and flammability properties. Her group controls carbon nanotube composite structure by inventing novel fabrication methods, along with subsequent processing methods that align the nanotubes. Important recent contributions from Karen’s lab include templating crystalline polymers from nanotubes, controlling the electrical conductivity of a composite by the nanotube orientation, and improving both strength and toughness by tuning the nanotube /polymer interface. Learn more.

Shu Yang Research Group

Shu is interested in developing new methodologies for the controlled synthesis, fabrication and characterization of materials with specific and unique structures and functionalities inspired by biology. Special interests include preparation of functional (co)polymers and investigation of their self-assembled nanostructures; understanding the self-organization process at surfaces and interfaces; development of novel responsive materials and non-conventional approaches for nano- and micropatterning of complex 2D and 3D structures; controlling wetting, adhesion and biofouling on polymer thin films. Learn more.