BioPACIFIC MIP Research: SET 3 - Functional Biomimics
What is your research focus?
Hydrogels are a versatile medium for investigating cellular processes as a means to understand phenomena like cell migration and differentiation. In the Stowers lab, we study the impact of microenvironmental changes on cell behavior using hydrogel-based 3D cell culture.
Cells can sense and respond to changes in their extracellular environment, and properties like stiffness, viscoelasticity, and fibrillar networks can regulate the way that they respond. My research interest lies in dynamic hydrogels, which are promising biomaterials for emulating the structural properties of the extracellular matrix. We can alter the properties of dynamic hydrogels in a time or stimulus-dependent manner, and support cell-matrix interactions.
SET 3 aligns well with my research goals, as I aim to develop functional 3D cell culture environments with spatial and temporal control over mechanical properties. Using state-of-the-art instrumentation at BioPACIFIC MIP, like the micro-rheometer and the Pavone multi-indenter, will allow me to precisely characterize the mechanical properties of hydrogels and biological samples. The information we get from this allows us to investigate the effects of the gel's properties on cell behavior in 3D cell culture.
What excites you about NSF BioPACIFIC MIP?
The BioPACIFIC MIP Fellows program offers a unique opportunity to connect with researchers across various disciplines. I really enjoy hearing about the research my colleagues are conducting, and aim to foster new connections with other Fellows through this program. I also intend to hone my scientific communication skills by presenting research progress in meetings and workshops. I hope to learn from, as well as contribute to a diverse group of scientific perspectives.
In addition to the opportunities for collaboration and use of BioPACIFIC MIP resources, I am interested in the professional and outreach opportunities available through the program. I intend to pursue a career in biotechnology following the completion of my Ph.D., and participating in professional development activities will allow me to develop skills amenable to a career in industry. Additionally, getting involved with outreach activities will allow me to gain skills as a mentor, so I can support the next generation of researchers.