Summer Research

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Make your summers count

The Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering (SURE) program provides summer research opportunities for U-M undergraduates; the Rackham Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) serves undergraduates from outside U-M.

Apply for a Summer Research program

You are welcome to contact faculty if you have additional, specific questions regarding these projects. After your application is received (in late January), you will be contacted and asked to list your top three projects, in order of preference. You are also welcome to list these preferences on your application.

There is no requirement to contact the faculty mentor of your selected project(s) before being selected. The matching process is performed by an internal committee and applicants are chosen based on their application to fill the number of spots available to the department. Selected students are then matched to faculty mentors by the committee. You are welcome to submit letters to strengthen your application, but they are not required. If you can get a letter from a project sponsor for example, it would be a good idea to have them submit that.

Upcoming BME projects will be listed starting in November; the application period runs through late January. Accepted applicants rank their top three projects in order of preference, and an internal committee matches applicants with projects.

Projects are added as they become available. Please check back for updated listings.

2020 BME Projects:

BME Project 1: Antibiotic resistance & drug combination discovery

Faculty mentor: Sriram Chandrasekaran, Ph.D.
Required skills: Familiarity with MATLAB programming. Basic knowledge of microbiology and genetics. Knowledge of machine learning is a plus.
The focus of this project is to understand antibiotic resistance and design novel drug treatments. 100,000 people die and a million others are sickened by antibiotic resistant bacteria in the United States every year. There is an urgent need to develop high-throughput approaches to screen promising drugs to counter antibiotic-resistance. The student will apply computer algorithms developed in our lab to identify potent antibiotic combinations for treating drug resistant microbial infections.

BME Project 2: Cancer metabolism & precision medicine

Faculty mentor: Sriram Chandrasekaran, Ph.D.
Required skills: Familiarity with MATLAB or Python. Basic knowledge of biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics. Experience working with big-data (genomics, transcriptomics) is a plus.
This project involves the application of computer models to simulate the metabolic properties of tumors. The computer models will be built using genomics, metabolomics and transcriptomics data from various types of cancer cell lines. By understanding the unique metabolic properties of each cell type, we can design drugs that target specific tumors. Further, knowledge of these differences will be used to design synergistic drug combinations tailored to each patient.

BME Project 3: Higher Education: Impact and Practice

Faculty mentor: Dr. Aileen Huang-Saad
Required skills: None
Dr. Huang-Saad’s (teel.bme.umich.edu) research investigates how BME education can support engineering student professional growth and identity development through instructional and organizational change. Depending on student interest and project needs, the research may focus on one of three topics: (1) how student exposure to and involvement in teaching and learning impacts career development; (2) the impact of BME interdisciplinary education on student professional development; or (3) how BME students identify with entrepreneurship. Students will be responsible for analyzing survey and interview data through qualitative and quantitative means and exploring relevant literature. The student will work closely with members of the Transforming Engineering Education Laboratory and participate in cross functional teams to see how different disciplines impact higher education. Interested students should contact Dr. Huang-Saad (aileenhs@umich.edu) for more information or to apply.


BME Project 4: Characterizing biological tissue using optical molecular imaging

Faculty mentor: Mary-Ann Mycek
Required skills: Some experience with programming languages such as MATLAB would be helpful, but is not required.
As researchers seek to translate exciting technologies for the regeneration of
damaged tissues, the lack of non-invasive and sterile methods for quantitatively evaluating the
quality of engineered tissues prior to use in patients presents a significant challenge. This NIH
funded research project investigates optical molecular imaging as a tool for characterizing the
viability of engineered skeletal muscle during and following fabrication, and predicting
successful implantation. This research could have broad applicability to other tissue engineered
products. The student will work closely with a senior graduate student to develop and apply
image analysis algorithms to obtain quantitative metrics of native tissue and tissue-engineered
constructs. This project is conducted in collaboration with researchers at the University of
Michigan Medical School.

BME Project 5: Near-infrared spectroscopy for clinical diagnostics

Faculty mentor: Mary-Ann Mycek
Required skills: Some experience with programming languages such as MATLAB would be
helpful, but is not required.
Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is employed to monitor hemodynamic changes in biological tissues and has numerous clinical applications, including traumatic brain injury, ischemia, muscle activation, and breast cancer diagnostics. The research project will develop and validate data analysis tools to quantify NIRS measurements to facilitate clinical tissue diagnostics. The student will work directly with a senior graduate student to develop and validate novel algorithms to extract biologically relevant parameters from time-resolved NIRS measurements. Depending on the student’s interest, the project can be tailored to have a computational or experimental focus.

BME Project 6: 3D Modeling and Manufacturing of High-Fidelity Surgical Simulators and Medical Devices

Faculty mentor: Kyle VanKoevering, M.D.
Required skills: Ideally, some background in 3D modeling, specifically Mimics Innovation Suite, and some background in 3D printing and/or Silicone manufacturing
This project focuses on the development and expansion of several simulators
designed for medical education and surgical skills development. The project would involve 3D
modeling of human anatomy and development of molding and casting shells that would be
manufactured on a 3D printer and subsequently filled with various Silicones, ballistic jellies, etc.
in the development of a high fidelity simulator for training young physicians. Depending on the
progress of the simulator, we would then develop a training curriculum and potentially
participate in a simulation/education course, obtain expert validation and explore the utility of
the simulator. Furthermore, there are several clinical projects related to patient-specific clinical
Medical Devices and models that, if interested, the participant could become involved with.

BME Project 7: Synthetic biomaterials to direct therapeutic angiogenesis

Faculty mentor: Brendon M. Baker, Ph.D.
Required skills: Cell culture, experience with MATLAB.
Angiogenesis is a complex morphogenetic process that involves intimate
interactions between migrating multicellular endothelial structures and their extracellular milieu.
To investigate how microenvironmental cues regulate angiogenesis, we develop in vitro
organotypic models that reduce the complexity of the native microenvironment and enable
mechanistic insight into how soluble and physical extracellular matrix cues regulate this dynamic
process. The focus of this project is to build a synthetic material that promotes angiogenesis
without the need for exogenous soluble cues or growth factor gradients. This implantable
biomaterial in the longer term will be applied to disease or injury settings to restore vascular function or for the creation of vascularized tissue grafts.

BME Project 8: Engineered microenvironments to study the dynamics of matrix remodeling during fibrosis

Faculty mentor: Brendon M. Baker, Ph.D.
Required skills: Cell culture, experience with MATLAB.
Fibrosis is a central component of numerous diseases, including liver
cirrhosis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, post-infarct cardiac scarring, and cancer; as such, it is
implicated in an estimated 45% of all deaths in the developed world. These diverse pathologies
similarly progress toward organ failure through myofibroblast-mediated overproduction of an
excessively stiff ECM. We aim to develop approaches that allow us to study the evolving
structure and mechanical properties of fibrous ECM, while monitoring the mechanics that drive
myofibroblast signaling. This work will shine light on biophysical mechanisms common to
numerous fibrotic diseases, and could lead to therapies that promote regenerative healing over
fibrotic scar formation.

BME Project 9: Biomedical ultrasound imaging and ultrasound technologies for tissue engineering and mechanobiology

Faculty mentor: Cheri Deng
Required skills: Matlab, instrumentation, data/signal analysis, experimental
experiences
Our research topics are in the interdisciplinary areas of biomedical
ultrasound, biophysics, tissue engineering, and mechanobiology. Specific projects
include studies involving sonoporation, acoustic tweezing cytometry, and ultrasound
elastography. Students will participate in experiments and data/signal analysis. For
detailed information, go to https://denglab.engin.umich.edu/research/ and
https://denglab.engin.umich.edu/publications/ for our recent publications.

BME Project 10: Design of new CAR T cells through live cell systems biology

Faculty mentor: Lonnie Shea, Ph.D.
Required skills: Interest in both in vitro and in vivo cellular immunotherapy research. Previous cell culture experience preferred but not required. Previous experience with quantitative analysis of datasets in MATLAB, R, or Python preferred but not required.
Cancers are constantly adapting to their environment, and as a result often become resistant to therapy and become extremely difficult to treat. One exciting new approach to treat these cancers is the use of engineered cells, for example chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. We are developing technology to help us track how these resistance adaptations occur and pinpoint the mechanisms that can be targeted through designing new CAR T cells. This project will involve developing new reporters for signaling pathways in engineered immune cells, testing the accuracy of these reporters and applying them to models of drug resistance in breast cancer. The end goal will be to test many different pathway reporters in parallel to create models to help clinicians design new treatment modalities.

BME Project 11: Cell Replacement for Type I Diabetes: Stem Cell Derived Beta Cell 3D Culture and Transplantation using Microporous Polymer Scaffolds

Faculty mentor: Lonnie Shea, Ph.D.
Required skills: Interest in in vitro and in vivo research. Attention to detail. Curiosity and independent decision-making skills desired.
The recent clinical successes using islet transplantation have demonstrated the potential for cell replacement to improve glucose control in Type 1 diabetics. Current clinical approaches deliver islets through the portal vein and subsequently reside within the sinusoids of the liver. This method of allogeneic islet transplantation has several therapeutic limitations including a shortage of donor islets, long-term immunosuppression, and high risk of graft failure. These limitations have led to the investigation of new cell sources, and methods to support transplanted cells through tissue engineering, immunomodulation, and revascularization. The Shea lab is currently employing a transformative approach to the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into beta cell progenitors in vitro, using microporous polymer scaffolds as a platform for pre-transplantation 3D culture. These scaffolds are then delivered into a clinically translatable site within a diabetic mouse model, where cell survival, function, and maturation are further characterized. Our lab leverages expertise in systems biology and the use of non-destructive imaging techniques to track transcription factor networks, metabolic activity, and the production and secretion of insulin. Additionally, these scaffolds provide the means to control the transplant microenvironment through biomolecular signaling to locally modulate the activation of the immune response. This multi-disciplinary research exists at the intersection of tissue engineering, developmental and systems biology, and biomaterials and aims to develop a clinically translatable approach to cellular replacement therapy.

BME Project 12: Monitoring and Treating Transplant Rejection via Biomaterial Immunological Niches

Faculty mentor: Lonnie Shea, Ph.D.
Required skills: Interest in immunomodulatory materials, comfort with both in vitro experimentation and in vivo rodent research, ability to communicate well, and creative independence.
While immunosuppressive treatments are effective in preventing early rejection of many organs, they have little effect in preventing skin graft rejection, leading to complications such as infection and even death in the more than 2.4 million U.S. burn victims each year alone. The Shea Group has engineered biomaterial-based immunological niches for use in monitoring disease activity and treatment efficacy. This research project will entail translating the use of these tissue engineering scaffolds to create an immunological signature of both graft rejection and acceptance in mice. Using these signatures, we aim to develop immunomodulatory nanoparticles to promote acceptance of allogeneic skin grafts.

Long term, we will translate the use of these monitors and treatments of organ rejection/acceptance to other organ transplant models and to adversely-immunomodulated pregnancies, as several complications in pregnancy can be considered similarly to transplant rejection.

The SURE student will gain experience in research methods in the exciting area of immunomodulatory materials, including primary cell culture, T-cell biology, high throughput techniques, gene signatures, nanoparticle design and synthesis, and in vivo models of transplants and pregnancy.

BME Project 13: Combinational strategies for nerve regeneration after spinal cord injury

Faculty mentor: Lonnie Shea, Ph.D.
Required skills: Interest in in vitro and in vivo research. Attention to detail. Curiosity and independent decision-making skills desired.
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) causes paralysis below the level of damage, which results from neuron and oligodendrocyte cell death, axonal loss, demyelination, and critically, the limited capacity of spinal cord neurons to regenerate. Although spinal cord neurons have the innate capacity to regenerate, they are limited by the environment, which contains an insufficient supply of factors to promote regeneration, and an abundant supply of factors that inhibit regeneration. Our long-term goal is to develop a combination therapy based on biomaterials (e.g. scaffolds and nanoparticles) that can 1) bridge, and 2) modulate the injury microenvironment, enabling promotion and direction of axonal growth into, through, and re-entering spared host tissue to form functional connections with intact circuitry below the injury. Critically, over three decades of research on CNS regeneration and SCI have made it clear that this complex problem requires a combinatorial solution that targets both tropic and inhibitory barriers. We take unique approaches where scaffolds/bridges will provide a guide for tissues to regrow along the porous channels while particles will modulate immune cells, such as monocytes, neutrophils and macrophages, to reduce inflammation and eventually enhance regeneration of tissue.

BME Project 14: Engineering natural killer cell immunotherapy at the metastatic niche

Faculty mentor: Lonnie Shea, Ph.D.
Required skills: Interest in both in vitro and in vivo cellular immunotherapy research. Previous cell culture experience preferred but not required. Previous experience with quantitative analysis of datasets in MATLAB, R, or Python preferred but not required.
Recent advances in our understanding of NK cell biology have led to effective NK cell-based immunotherapy against otherwise treatment-resistant hematopoietic cancer. However, as yet, NK and other cell-based immunotherapies have had limited efficacy against solid cancers owing to insufficient homing from circulation and inactivation within the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. Methods for improving NK cell homing and activation at solid tumors are critically needed, yet in vitro studies of NK cells are performed predominately within simplified 2D assays that cannot replicate authentic interactions in 3D in vivo systems. Further, intravenous delivery of NK cell therapies and their cytokine support is dose limited by systemic toxicity through cytokine release syndrome. The Shea lab is using a systems tissue engineering framework, applying the tools of systems biology and tissue engineering to first better understand NK cell homing and activation at the microenvironment of solid tumors and second improve in vivo delivery systems for NK cell immunotherapy. The SURE student will join a team of researchers within the Shea lab, gaining familiarity with state-of-the-art research methods in the rapidly growing area of cellular cancer immunotherapy including primary cell culture, genetic engineering, single cell omics and imaging, in vitro functional assays, and in vivo models.

BME Project 15: Overcoming immune responses that lead to deleterious outcomes

Faculty mentor: Lonnie Shea, Ph.D.
Required skills: Interest in in vitro and in vivo research. Attention to detail. Curiosity and independent decision-making skills desired.
We are using biocompatible nanoparticles to delivery peptides in a way that reverses immune disorders. However, there is the potential for undesired immunological responses that can occur in individuals with a history of specific peptide exposure. We are investigating nanoparticle cell interactions and immune recognition of particles. This project will involve nanoparticle fabrication, cell culture, and assessment of immune responses in mouse models.