Gerecht to present Frontier Award Lecture Dec. 1

Sharon Gerecht, Kent Gordon Croft Investment Management Faculty Scholar and associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, will present the Inaugural President’s Frontier Award Lecture at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1 in Mason Hall Auditorium. A reception will follow.

Sharon Gerecht

Sharon Gerecht

Gerecht is a bioengineer whose research focuses on using engineering fundamentals to study basic questions in stem cell biology in order to regenerate and repair damaged blood vessels and halt the spread of cancer.

In January, Gerecht became the first winner of the $250,000 President’s Frontier Award. She will become an associate director of the Institute for Nanobiotechnology in January.

Gerecht and Mao to join INBT leadership effective January 1

The Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) recently announced that Sharon Gerecht and Hai-Quan Mao have been appointed as associate directors, effective January 1, 2016.

“The addition of Gerecht and Mao to the Institute’s leadership team will be crucial in developing new research areas,” says director Peter C. Searson, the Joseph R. and Lynn C. Reynolds Professor in Materials Science and Engineering at the Whiting School.


Hai-Quan Mao and Sharon Gerecht join INBT as associate directors in 2016

Associate director Denis Wirtz, Vice Provost for Research and the Theophilus H. Smoot Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering adds, “Their broad research interests and forward-thinking vision will contribute to shaping the institute’s future.”

Both Gerecht and Mao are engaged in collaborative projects with investigators in Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and the university’s Applied Physics Laboratory.

Gerecht, the Kent Gordon Croft Investment Management Faculty Scholar and an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, has been a member of the INBT since arriving at Johns Hopkins in 2007. Gerecht’s research interests include stem cell differentiation, biomaterials development and tissue engineering approaches for regenerative medicine and cancer. In 2015, Gerecht received the inaugural President’s Frontier Award from Johns Hopkins University, in recognition of her scholarly achievements and exceptional promise.

Mao, a professor of materials science and engineering, has been active in INBT since its inception in 2006.  Mao holds joint appointments in the Translational Tissue Engineering Center in the School of Medicine and the Whitaker Biomedical Engineering Institute. His research focuses on creating nanofiber matrix platforms to direct stem cell expansion and differentiation, nanomaterials to modulate the immunoenvironment and promote neural regeneration, and developing nanoparticle systems to deliver plasmid DNA, siRNA, vaccines and other therapeutic agents.

“INBT has been instrumental in advancing science and engineering in critically important areas of research,” says Ed Schlesinger, the Benjamin T. Rome Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering. “An additional manifestation of the INBT’s success and growth is the astonishingly talented faculty who are part of the institute and who are willing and able to take on leadership roles. I have no doubt that in their new roles Sharon and Hai-Quan will help advance the INBT’s mission and its stellar reputation.”

INBT was launched in 2006 with support from Senator Barbara Mikulski to promote multidisciplinary research at the interface of nanotechnology and medicine.  The institute, with more than 250 affiliated faculty members from the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, Whiting School of Engineering, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, School of Education, Bloomberg School of Public Heath, and the Applied Physics Laboratory, is home to several center grants and numerous education, training, and outreach programs.

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at

New INBT symposium puts undergrad research in the spotlight

2015 INBT Undergraduate Symposium

2015 INBT Undergraduate Symposium

Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) held its first-ever undergraduate research symposium “Innovations in Medicine: An Engineering and Biological Perspective” on Nov. 5, 2015 in the Glass Pavilion in Levering on the Homewood campus. Members of the INBT Undergraduate Research Leaders team organized the event.  Thirty-six posters were presented and four students gave keynote talks. Approximately 70 people attended throughout the day.

The symposium supports INBT’s mission to promote interdisciplinary research and collaboration at all academic levels. Since more than 100 undergraduates conduct research in institute-affiliated laboratories across the university, members of INBT’s Undergraduate Research Leaders, founded in 2012, felt a research symposium showcasing only undergraduate work was needed.

Ben Wheeler

Ben Wheeler

“We have in the past focused primarily on building community within INBT and helping to facilitate opportunities for undergraduates to build their research repertoire and network with others here at Hopkins and beyond,” said Benjamin Wheeler (2016 BME), who co-organized the event. “I think hosting the symposium fit very nicely with our previous goals and event planning experience but on a much larger scale. In organizing it, our goals were to allow undergraduates across all of Hopkins Campuses to showcase their amazing work while getting practice making posters, giving talks, and enjoying face time with professors and representatives from outside industry.”

In addition to poster presentations, four students were chosen to give talks during the symposium. They included: Andrew Tsai (BME 2017/Miller Lab) “Tunable Electrospun Antimicrobial Coatings for Orthopedic Implants;” Miguel Sobral (BME 2017/ Gerecht Lab) “Addressing the Shortcomings of Convection Enhances Delivery to the Brain;” Xinyi Xin (ChemBE 2017/ Cui Lab) “Tuning Paclitaxel-Drug Amphiphiles Self-Assembly Behavior by Modification of Hydrophobicity and Aromaticity;” and Michael Saunders (ChemBE 2016/ Gerecht Lab) “The Creation and Use of PDMS Substrates for Examining Matrix Elasticity.”

“We thought the symposium would be a great opportunity to feature the scientific research being done by undergraduate students at Hopkins not just within INBT but campus wide,” said event co-organizer Victoria Laney (ChemBE 2016). “We came up with ‘Innovations in Medicine’ as this year’s theme because we thought it really embodied the spirit of INBT and of many other labs at Hopkins.”

Victoria Laney

Victoria Laney

Prizes for top poster presenters were given to the following students:

First Place

  • Brendan Deng, “The Role of Megf11 in Oligodendrocyte Precursor Cell Tiling and Differentiation”

Second Place

  • Melissa Lin, “Monitoring Uterine Contractions in the Developing World”

Crowd Favorites

  • Fatima Umanzor, “Functional coupling of Cancer Cell Proliferation and Migration through the Synergistic Paracrine Signaling of Interleukins 6/8”
  • Asish Anam, “Design of a Novel Functionalized Hyaluronic Acid Hydrogel Microenvironment for Regulation of Cell Migration for Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Applications.”
2015 INBT Undergraduate Symposium

2015 INBT Undergraduate Symposium

The team invited judges to evaluate the posters on display. They included INBT alumni Matt Dallas (Thermo Fisher), Laura Dickson (Gemstone), and Steven Lu (Secant), current doctoral candidate Kristen Kozielski (Green Lab), and INBT affiliated faculty members Michael Edidin from biology and Jennifer Elisseeff from biomedical engineering.

Laney said the team intends to make sure the undergraduate symposium continues to happen for years to come.  “We absolutely plan on passing on the torch to our incredible juniors,” Laney said. “They also contributed a lot of time and effort into preparing this symposium, and we believe that they have the experience, dedication and enthusiasm to pull it off again.”


2015 Undergraduate Research Symposium

Story and photos by Mary Spiro.

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at



High school intern analyzes insect athletics for improved robot design

Nico Deshler was one of three high school students that Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology was able to support for a research internship during Summer 2015. Deshler, a rising senior at the Washington International School, conducted research in INBT affiliated labs through a supplement to the institute’s annual National Science Foundation funded Research Experience for Undergraduates.

Nico Deshler, center, with Emily Palmer, left, and Prof.  Mittal, right. Photo by Will Kirk.

Nico Deshler, center, with Emily Palmer, left, and Prof. Mittal, right. Photo by Will Kirk.

Deshler worked in the mechanical engineering laboratory of Rajat Mittal, who is studying the motion of spider crickets to improve robot design. Deshler was co-mentored by Noah Cowan, associate professor of mechanical engineering. The research team thinks that by analyzing the movements of non-human creatures, they may engineer better helper robot designs. Read more about this fascinating work, including a slow-motion video of crickets jumping, in a Johns Hopkins University press release.

Other high schoolers who participated in the summer REU supplemental program included Prathik Naidu, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School who worked in the Martin Ulmschneider lab and Nahom Yimam, a student at Thomas S. Wooton High School who worked in the Peter Searson lab.

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at


International research experience info sessions Oct 22

Through a National Science Foundation grant, Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology has been able to offer the chance for several students to conduct research abroad. INBT’s International Research Experience for Students (IRES) has been sending undergraduates and some grad students to Leuven, Belgium to conduct 10 weeks of summer research at IMEC since 2009. IMEC is known as for its state-of-the-art nano- and micro fabrication facilities and for being a hub of international collaborative multi-disciplinary work. IMEC researchers from Johns Hopkins are supported with travel expenses, housing and a stipend. Come find out more at these two info sessions on October 22. Session 1 is from 1-2 p.m. in Shaffer 100 and Session 2 is from 5-6 p.m. in the Mason Hall Alumni boardroom. RSVP to

IRES Flyer 10-20-15

First-ever INBT undergraduate symposium set for Nov 5

Save the date November 5, 2015 for the inaugural  Undergraduate Research Symposium hosted  by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology’s Undergraduate Leadership Board.

“Innovations in Medicine: An Engineering & Biological Perspective” will be held Thursday, November 5 from 1- 6 p.m. in the Levering Glass Pavilion and Arellano Theatre.  The event includes a poster session and judging from 1 – 4:30 p.m. and speakers from  3 – 4  p.m.

Posters and speaker abstracts are now being accepted. You may submit your abstracts and posters online here, and all majors are invited to participate. The Deadline for submission is Oct 23 at 11:59 p.m.

postcard symposium

REU Profile: making connections in metastasis

Kelcee Everette was part of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology’s summer research experience for undergraduates. She blogged about her experience below:

My name is Kelcee Everette and I am a rising sophomore at Harvard University. During the summer, I worked in the Denis Wirtz Lab in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, where I characterized invasive breast cancer cell movement and compared those characterizations to the cell’s ability to metastasize in both 3D gels and on 2D substrates.

Kelcee Everette

Kelcee Everette

This project for me was especially exciting because I had never conducted research before. I learned a lot of skills that will be extremely valuable to me as I pursue my PhD.

The entire research experience was completely new to me, but my mentor, PI, and labmates were super helpful in teaching me the techniques I’d need to conduct my experiments.  Some of the skills I acquired included advanced microscopy, how to culture cells, and how create 3D collagen matrices, along with learning new programs like ImageJ and Metamorph.

I also learned a lot about the biological nature of cancer cells. The most interesting thing I learned, and the cornerstone of my project, was that cancer cells that are genetically identical can have vastly different motility profiles. The old saying “you learn something new every day” was a very applicable statement to my time in the lab.

Outside of the lab, my fellow interns and I had fun exploring the Inner Harbor, going to a food truck festival and a few other local and cultural festivals, and exploring local eateries and shopping centers. My experience this summer has been truly enjoyable both in and out of the lab, and I feel as if I have made great connections within the scientific community in just ten short weeks.

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at

Progress on Croft Hall INBT expansion continues

In just a few months, Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology  (INBT) will open more than 12,000 square feet of expanded facilities in Croft Hall on the Homewood campus.  The highly interdisciplinary and flexible environment for nanobio research includes both laboratory and faculty and student office space for INBT affiliated personnel from other departments and divisions. The expansion also encompasses part of Shaffer Hall.

Housedblueprints in this new space will be two faculty members from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Martin Pomper, MD, PhD from Radiology and Oncology and Laura Wood, MD, PhD from Pathology and Oncology, both of whom are contributing to ongoing INBT programs. In addition, INBT will provide laboratory space for five engineering faculty including Sean Sun and Jeff Wang from Mechanical Engineering; Kalina Hristova and Martin Ulmschneider from Materials Science and Engineering; and Feilim Mac Gabhann from Biomedical Engineering and the Institute for Computational Medicine. Lastly, Hai-Quan Mao in Materials Science and Engineering and Sharon Gerecht in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering will have student office space in Shaffer Hall.

Along with lab and office space, there will be an imaging core composed of a suite of specialty microscopes managed by the Integrated Imaging Center (IIC) led by Michael McCaffery, whose main facilities are located in Dunning Hall on the Homewood campus

INBT has more than 220 affiliated faculty members from across several university divisions. Check out a gallery of photos from construction below. Text and all photos by Mary Spiro.

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at



REU Profile: Microfluidics internship teaches patience, perseverance

Alex Chavez is a rising sophomore at University of Central Florida where he is studying Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Bio-Engineering and Mathematics. He spent the summer in the Materials Science and Engineering laboratories of Kalina Hristova and Peter C. Searson as part of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology Research Experience for Undergraduates program (INBT REU). His mentor was Alex Komin, a PhD candidate in the Searson group.

Alex wanted to write about his experience at Johns Hopkins in the INBT REU program in a blog post as follows:

This summer at the INBT REU has been a challenging and rewarding experience that has allowed me to investigate interesting topics at the interface of microfluidics, biological cells, and drug delivery. My research is focused on fabricating microfluidic devices, which allow to easily introduce the fluorescent molecules of interest to the cells and wash them out while doing live-cell fluorescence imaging.

Alex Chavez

Alex Chavez

While the main purpose of the device is to measure the rates at which fluorescent molecules can enter and exit cells, the applications of this microfluidic device may extend to the measurements of inhibition and cell viability without taking the cells out of the microscope. One of my research goals was to optimize the microfluidic device, such as the tube connection and battling with the bubbles that could ultimately stop the flow of the fluid in the microfluidic vessel. I have enjoyed learning how to fabricate microfluidic devices, work in the cleanroom, culture cells, seed cells, and to work with a confocal microscope.

This experience has given me the chance to learn from an expert in cell culture and learn more about the JHU community. Being mentored by an expert that can guide me and give me hints on what to do next, as well as to let me explore my own potential, has given me an incredible insight into the life of a graduate student. It has taught me the patience, diligence, and passion, to name a few skills, which a researcher should possess to perform their best in the laboratory. It has also showed me that sometimes experiments planned for a specific day may be delayed due to troubleshooting the device. It has also made me realize that if you keep on working and putting 100 percent of yourself, one day when you least expect it, you might be able to attain publishable results. This experience has ultimately taught me to keep on working and fighting for the love and advancement of science and drug delivery.

My experience at INBT has guided me and confirmed my thirst to pursue an advanced degree in biomedical engineering. My peers in the INBT REU program have inspired me to push myself to the limits and continue to work hard in order to know as much as them. I have visited Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and have had dinners with my peers. I’m blessed and truly privileged to have had this experience, including talking with my Puerto Rican roommate, Jean Rodriguez, about future goals and aspirations.

My mentor, Alexander Komin, has taught me invaluable skills that I will cherish and continue to further develop in the future. Thank you very much INBT for allowing me to further my research experience.

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at


The Rosetta REU: software lets students collaborate at a distance

Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) has launched a summer research undergraduate internship to train students to build new lifesaving drug molecules and create new biofuels, while testing the concept of a virtual research community. With the help of a $200,000, two-year grant to INBT from the National Science Foundation, Jeffrey Gray, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, spearheaded a first-of-its-kind training program where students collaborate with others from distant host university labs and use computer software to build vaccines, biofuels, and protein circuits in living cells.

Typical summer internships bring students together to one host university, but students in the Computational Biomolecular training program use an open-source software called Rosetta to work together on problems no matter where they are. Participants are mentored by members of a global collaborative team known as the Rossetta Commons, and users analyze massive amounts of data to predict the structure of real and imagined proteins, enzymes, and other molecules.

ChemBE professor Jeff Gray (standing) confers with Rosetta Commons undergradutate intern, Morgan Nance (seated left), and her mentor, Rebecca Alford (seated right), undergraduate research assistant, as they video conference with Mingzhao Liu, an undergraduate interning at Vanderbilt University.

ChemBE professor Jeff Gray (standing) confers with Rosetta Commons undergraduate intern, Morgan Nance (seated left), and her mentor, Rebecca Alford (seated right), undergraduate research assistant, as they video conference with Mingzhao Liu, an undergraduate interning at Vanderbilt University. Photo by Will Kirk/Homewood Photography

“Computational biologists study known macromolecules or design new ones and use computers to predict how these molecules will fold in 3D and interact with cells or other molecules,” said Gray. “For example, researchers create computational algorithms to design a new drug molecule or use the Rosetta software to predict how molecules might behave in a living organism. And because the work is done using a computer, researchers can easily collaborate at a distance.”

The students in the pilot program began with a week-long boot camp at the University of North Carolina at the end of May. Then, they traveled to host universities, which included Johns Hopkins; University of California, Davis; Scripps Research Institute; Stanford University; New York University; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and Vanderbilt.

Morgan Nance, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from the University of California, Davis, worked in the Gray Lab. “I hope to become more familiar with Rosetta to the point that I am able to utilize it in my home lab,” Nance said. “I want to gain the technical skills of how to use this new software and the knowledge of how to develop it further. “

With the pilot program, students quickly expand their skill set. “Each lab has different expertise,” Gray said. “One lab might specialize in protein docking, another in RNA structure and design, another in vaccine design or protein function. When students cross train in these laboratories, they learn to recognize the common themes. “

Each week, Nance and her colleagues “met” via video chat to discuss current published papers and to present updates from host labs. At the end of 10 weeks, the Rosetta cohort convened at the annual RosettaCON in Leavenworth, Washington. Though Nance was on her own at Hopkins, INBT staff included her in activities organized for their other summer research interns.

“If this distributed model works just as well as the traditional one, we would then be able to accept this kind of model and access the best labs in the country for doing research,” said Sally O’Connor, the NSF program director.

Story by Mary Spiro

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at