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.

BME Guidelines:

Successful applicants will be selected by the projects’ listed faculty mentors. There is no requirement to contact the faculty mentor of your desired project(s) prior to being selected, but you may reach out to them with specific questions regarding the project if you desire.  The number of positions awarded is dependent on SURE/SROP program allocations to the BME department (typically 6-8 each year). 

Upcoming BME projects will be listed starting in November; the application period runs through late January.

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

2022 BME Projects:

BME Project #1: Nanoparticle-Based Food Allergy Immunotherapy

Faculty Mentor: Lonnie Shea, PhD, ldshea@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of biology and biochemistry. Strong interest in research focused on regenerative medicine and the immune system. Prior lab experience, including familiarity with polymeric biomaterials, cell culture, basic molecular biology techniques, and/or mouse models of disease is a plus.
Project Description: Food allergy is a potentially deadly condition affecting approximately 10% of the US population. T cells are activated towards an inflammatory state that promotes the generation of allergen-specific IgE and the allergen-mediated degranulation of mast cells. Our lab is investigating the use of a translationally-relevant, nanoparticle-based therapeutic to proactively generate allergen-specific tolerance in food allergic individuals. This project will utilize both cell culture and mouse models. Depending on the student’s level of experience and interest, the summer will involve training in nanoparticle production, cell culture, and basic molecular biology techniques, as well as an introduction to mouse experimentation. The student will gain experience in experimental design as well as data analysis using excel and CellProfiler. An interest in continuing in the lab beyond the summer will increase opportunities for research independence.
Research Mode:
In Lab


BME Project #2: Antibiotic resistance & drug combination discovery

Faculty Mentor: Sriram Chandrasekaran, Ph.D., csriram@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Familiarity with MATLAB programming. Basic knowledge of microbiology and genetics. Knowledge of machine learning is a plus.
Project Description: 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.
Research Mode: 
Hybrid


BME Project #3: Cancer metabolism & precision medicine

Faculty Mentor: Sriram Chandrasekaran, Ph.D., csriram@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Familiarity with MATLAB or Python. Basic knowledge of biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics. Experience working with big-data (genomics, transcriptomics) is a plus.
Project Description: 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.
Research Mode: 
Hybrid


BME Project #4: Developing Microsphere Delivery System for Inhibiting Pathological Mineralization

Faculty Mentor: David Kohn Ph.D., dhkohn@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Prior wet lab experience, familiarity with cell culture (preferred)
Project Description: Previously, the Kohn Lab discovered a custom peptide for its high affinity for bone mineral, but we also discovered that this peptide inhibits mineralization in differentiating osteoblasts. Currently, we are assessing the potential for this peptide as a therapeutic against pathological mineralization. The student will work on fabricating, characterizing, and performing in vitro testing on a microsphere delivery system for our custom peptide.
Research Mode: 
In Lab


BME Project #5: Biomimetic Apoptotic Particles for Macrophage-driven Bone Regeneration

Faculty Mentor: Brendon M. Baker, Ph.D., bambren@umich.edu
Prerequisites: general lab experience, lab notebooking, cell and tissue culture, familiarity with MATLAB
Project Description: Improper osseous wound healing due to disease, injury related trauma, and tumor resection, among other causes, can lead to impaired function, pain, reduced quality of life, and substantial costs to individuals. Often overlooked, one of the first steps in bone wound repair is cell death and subsequent apoptotic (dead/dying) cell clearance, called efferocytosis, by macrophages. In this project, a biomaterial-based imitation of efferocytosis will be investigated as a promising strategy to modulate and enhance bone regeneration. Students involved in this project will gain expertise in tissue engineering, including mammalian cell culture, biomaterials, and biological image analysis.
Research Mode: 
In Lab


BME Project #6: Synthetic biomaterials to direct therapeutic angiogenesis

Faculty Mentor: Brendon M. Baker, Ph.D., bambren@umich.edu
Prerequisites: general lab experience, lab notebooking, cell and tissue culture, familiarity with MATLAB
Project Description: 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. Students involved in this project will gain expertise in biomaterials, microphysiologic modeling, and biological image analysis.
Research Mode: 
In Lab


BME Project #7: Biomanufacturing stem-cell derived cardiac grafts with micro-scale vasculature

Faculty Mentor: Brendon M. Baker, Ph.D., bambren@umich.edu
Prerequisites: general lab experience, lab notebooking, cell and tissue culture, familiarity with MATLAB
Project Description: Acute or chronic cardiac injuries, eg. through myocardial infarction or prolonged cardiac overload, cause irreversible damage to the heart. The field of cardiac tissue engineering aims to develop technologies to biomanufacture engineered tissues that could replace injured or diseased native myocardium and restore normal cardiac function for the patient.  The goal of this project is to engineer hydrogel-based 3D tissue grafts containing dense and organized beds of capillaries interspersed between aligned bundles of cardiomyocytes. Students contributing to this project will develop expertise tissue engineering and biomaterials development, in particular melt electro-writing and tissue microfabrication.
Research Mode: 
In Lab


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

Faculty Mentor: Brendon M. Baker, Ph.D., bambren@umich.edu
Prerequisites: general lab experience, lab notebooking, cell and tissue culture, familiarity with MATLAB
Project Description: 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. Students involved in this project will gain expertise in biomaterials, microphysiologic modeling, and biological image analysis.
Research Mode: 
In Lab


BME Project #9: Cell Replacement for Type I Diabetes: Stem Cell Derived Beta Cell 3D Culture and Transplantation using Microporous Polymer Scaffolds

Faculty Mentor: Lonnie Shea, PhD, ldshea@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Interest in in vitro and in vivo research. Attention to detail. Curiosity and independent decision-making skills desired.
Project Description: 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.
Research Mode: 
In-Person


BME Project #10: Monitoring and Treating Transplant Rejection via Biomaterial Immunological Niches

Faculty Mentor: Lonnie Shea, PhD, ldshea@umich.edu
Prerequisites: interest in immunomodulatory materials, comfort with both in vitro experimentation and in vivo rodent research, ability to communicate well, and creative independence
Project Description: 

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.
Research Mode: 
In-Person


BME Project #11: Combinational strategies for nerve regeneration after spinal cord injury

Faculty Mentor: Lonnie Shea, PhD, ldshea@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Interest in in vitro and in vivo research. Attention to detail. Curiosity and independent decision-making skills desired.
Project Description: 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.
Research Mode: 
In-Person


BME Project #12: Predicting Organ Transplant Rejection via Biomaterial Immunological Niches

Faculty Mentor: Lonnie Shea, PhD, ldshea@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Interest in immunomodulatory materials, comfort with learning in vitro experimentation and in vivo rodent research, ability to communicate well, and enthusiasm.
Project Description: 

As there is no method to predict the risk of organ transplant rejection, clinicians rely on aggressive, one-size-fits-all immunosuppression. Immunosuppression protects grafts but increases systemic toxicities. A minimally invasive surveillance method is urgently needed to quantify early risk of rejection for personalizing treatment. The Shea Group has engineered biomaterial scaffolds to monitoring rejection and treatment efficacy. This research project entails translating the use of these tissue engineering scaffolds to create an immunological signature of both adequate immune suppression and tolerization in mice. Using these signatures, we aim to develop a predictive test of tolerance-prone and tolerance-resistant transplant recipients in mice. 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, and rodent models of transplants and immunosuppression.

Research Mode: In-Person


BME Project #13: Minimally-Invasive Biomaterials for Demystifying the Allogeneic Immune Niche in Pregnancy

Faculty Mentor: Lonnie Shea, PhD, ldshea@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Interest in immunomodulatory materials, comfort with learning in vitro experimentation and in vivo rodent research, ability to communicate well, and enthusiasm.
Project Description: 

Pregnancy is the paradox of peaceful coexistence with the semi-allogeneic fetus, yet pathologies such as recurrent miscarriage and preeclampsia are increasingly associated with immune dysregulation. As no non-invasive method to monitor the placenta exists, the dynamics of generation of the placenta are not well understood. The Shea lab has developed microporous biomaterial scaffolds as synthetic immunological niches which facilitate investigating disease dynamics and immune responses without disrupting native tissue. In this work, we will employ minimally-invasive scaffolds to capture the longitudinal immune domain of healthy rodent pregnancies. This scaffold capturing the synthetic placental niche will be used to identify and monitor the immune cell populations in the physiological placenta for greater understanding as to how immune dysfunction negatively programs towards miscarriage. We hypothesize that the remotely-implanted synthetic decidual niche will recapitulate immunological aspects of the placental immune cell populations in pregnancy, allowing the dynamic monitoring of immune activity and disease mechanisms (cell types and phenotypes) without risk to the womb. Long term, we will characterize the dynamics of immune cell types in the placenta and the tissue engineered synthetic placental niche to generate a predictive gene expression signature of healthy and miscarriage-prone pregnancies. The SURE student will gain experience in the exciting area of immunomodulation, including primary cell culture, T-cell biology, high throughput techniques, gene signatures, flow cytometry, and rodent models of pregnancy.
Research Mode: 
In-Person