Megan Valentine is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and an Associate Director of the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at UC Santa Barbara. She obtained her B.S. from Lehigh University, M.S. from the University of Pennsylvania and Ph.D. from Harvard University, all in Physics. She completed postdoctoral work in the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, under the support of a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Fellowship and Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award. She joined the UCSB faculty in 2008. Prof. Valentine’s innovation and impact have been recognized through an NSF CAREER Award for her work on neuron mechanics, a Fulbright Scholar award to study adhesion mechanics in Paris, France, and her 2019 election as a Fellow of the American Physical Society for her pioneering research in the development of biomaterials characterization methods, including microrheology.
What Excites You About the NSF BioPACIFIC MIP?
BioPACIFIC MIP will provide exciting opportunities to pursue cutting edge research, while building advanced technologies and methods to bolster the biomaterials community across the nation and world. BioPACIFIC MIP will leverage and extend the UCSB-UCLA partnership that exists through the California NanoSystems Institute to create a new focal point for biomaterials research and I am eager to see what new synergies, collaborations, and discoveries result. It is likely that the biomaterials ecosystem in Southern California will look very different in 5 years, and I am eager to be a part of this revolution.
Collaborations with Other BioPACIFIC MIP Faculty
My work is extremely collaborative, and I enjoy tackling complex problems that require the concerted efforts of diverse, multidisciplinary teams. Current efforts include work on light-activated materials for soft robotics and additive manufacturing, as well as the development of ultratough, ultrastrong soft composites in collaboration with Javier Read de Alaniz, Craig Hawker, and Matt Helgeson. I have active collaborations with many other participating faculty as well. I am eager to expand these collaborations to include the UCLA teams and to leverage synthetic biology approaches to build new materials.
My experimental laboratory studies how forces are generated and transmitted in living materials, how these forces control cellular outcomes, and how to capture the extraordinary features of living systems in manmade materials. This highly interdisciplinary work lies at the intersection of engineering, physics, chemistry, and biology. Through team-driven research, my lab aims to understand and harness nature’s ingenuity to build high-performance materials for actuation and sensing, and to optimize material performance to solve real-world engineering challenges in healthcare, packaging and robotics. I am an expert in microscale materials characterization, which is a core area of innovation for BioPACIFIC MIP.