student in leach labOur current research focuses on designing biomaterials and sensors for tissue engineering applications. This multidisciplinary area couples expertise in engineering, life sciences and clinical medicine to understand the body’s own biomaterials (i.e., the proteins and carbohydrates of the extracellular matrix), the cellular machinery by which the biomaterials are assembled and degraded, and how the dynamic microscale interactions of these components influence tissue physiology.

We design, synthesize and characterize biomaterials created from naturally derived and synthetic biopolymers. Particular interest centers on delineating quantitative relationships between properties of three-dimensional cell scaffolds and the elicited signaling mechanisms of cells grown within the materials.

Ongoing work focuses on 1) scaffolds to support neural regeneration and transplant of neural stem cells; 2) in vitro models of neural tissue for therapeutics research and development; and 3) novel sensor platforms for mapping hypoxia in areas of high metabolic activity, such as tissues undergoing regeneration or tumor morphogenesis.