INBT speakers highlight nanobio trends in neuroscience, stem cell growth, drug delivery, imaging

Below is the first part of a two-part series summarizing the talks presented at the 3rd Annual NanoBio Symposium hosted by the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, on May 18, 2009. Four talks from the eight speakers who presented that day are described below. [Read more…]

Twelve students join Hopkins for summer nanobiotech research

Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) welcomed 12 undergraduate students to the Johns Hopkins University for its summer Research Experience (REU) program, funded by the National Science Foundation. The group includes students from across the country who attend other universities, as well as one Hopkins student. Each participant will work with an INBT affiliated faculty adviser. Their projects consist of 10-week research experiments and culminate in a university-wide poster session held with other internship and summer program students.

Along with their research, INBT’s REU students attend socials, professional development seminars, laboratory tours and other scheduled outings. Student are supported with a stipend and given housing for the summer. The selection process for INBT’s REU is highly competitive and more than 300 applicants vied for the 12 slots. [Read more…]

NanoBioTech Institute Sends Hopkins Senior To Belgium For Summer Research

Michael Keung

Michael Keung

This summer, Michael Keung, a rising senior in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, will participate in the Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program. INBT’s IRES program, funded by the National Science Foundation, allows students to collaborate with researchers from Hopkins and The Inter-University MircroElectronics Centre (IMEC) in Leuven, Belgium. Students work at IMEC’s world-class microfabrication facility and learn to design, fabricate and test chip-based platforms and integrated microelectronic systems for biomedical applications. The goal of the program is to help students gain a broader, global perspective of science and technology.

Michael is working on a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering (ChemBE) with a concentration in interfaces and nanotechnology with a minor in entrepreneurship and management. Before he left for Belgium on May 30, he answered a few questions about how he became involved in INBT’s IRES program. While abroad, Michael will keep a blog so that everyone back home can read about his experiences at IMEC and in Europe. To read Michael’s blog, “Summer 2009 at IMEC,“ go to

1. Why did you want to participate in INBT’s IRES program?

I think it is safe to say that a large majority of students consider Hopkins to be extremely, if not overly, rigorous. Any opportunity to take a break from school work or getting off campus is welcomed with wide, open arms. After my sophomore year at JHU, I was strongly considering some type of travel abroad, whether it was taking classes or doing an internship, to get a break from Hopkins and Baltimore.

I first heard about INBT’s IRES program from an email distributed from my principal investigator, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering David Gracias (an affiliated faculty member of INBT). I wanted to be a part of this program because it provides an amazing opportunity to further one’s education, both academically and personally. IMEC has world class facilities and has been a leader in nanoelectronics and nanobiotechnology. I can’t imagine any better way to spend a summer than traveling around Europe and working in such a renowned facility as IMEC.

2. What do you hope to learn about nanobiotechnology, business, research etc.?

I hope to learn new fabrication techniques and ways of perfecting the current ones I am already familiar with. By bringing these back to the Gracias lab, perhaps we will be able to improve our own fabrication methods. Additionally, I hope to become exposed to the biological side of nanotechnology. As a ChemBE concentrating in interfaces and nanotechnology, my exposure to the biological aspect is very limited. With this research opportunity, I hope to broaden my academic scope.

3. How did you prepare yourself academically and personally for your trip?

Coming from the Gracias lab, I already have a lot of experience with microfabrication. The processes that we use to fabricate our structures are similar to the techniques used over at IMEC. IMEC, however, has very large facilities and equipment with greater resolution than what we have at our disposal at Hopkins. My research background with the Gracias lab has prepared me academically for this trip.

Personally, one thing I am definitely taking with me are Dutch and French dictionaries. I have a feeling that I will need it, considering I have zero background in either language. The whole language barrier problem should be fun trying to get around, albeit frustrating.

4. What skills do you hope to gain from this research trip?

I hope to gain skills in perfecting the fabrication techniques employed in the Gracias lab. By integrating the experience I obtain at IMEC with our lab here at Hopkins, perhaps we may be able to fabricate new types of micro and nanostructures.

5. What research project will you be working on?

The project will be a collaborative effort between the Gracias lab and IMEC. The Gracias lab has experience in fabricating 3D self-assembled structures ranging from 100 nanometers to several millimeters. The group I’ll be working with over at IMEC has experience in fabricating plasmonic nanostructures that are sensitive towards the attachment of biomolecules. Together, we will be working on fabricating nanocubes with plasmonic nanostructure cavities on each face of a cube. This will allow us to demonstrate directional sensitivity in three dimensions on the nanoscale and have importance in surface enhanced raman spectroscopy (SERS) experiments in fluids or even in vivo.

6. What qualities do you think you bring to this research trip?

Personally, I will be bringing the cube fabrication experience from our lab and combining it with the resources over at IMEC to fabricate new types of plasmonic nanostructures.

7. What do you think will be the most challenging part about your trip?

One aspect of this research experience that will be challenging to acclimate to is the different equipment on the IMEC campus. When working with the instruments in the Gracias lab, you get familiar with the workings and intricacies of the equipment. I do not know about IMEC specifically, but at some companies, technicians operate each specific piece of equipment, such that one individual never fabricates a wafer from beginning to end. Although getting acquainted with new procedures will be challenging, they will have to be overcome.

Additionally, I think being submerged in a new country and culture will be very intimidating. I have no experience with the Dutch or French languages, so a language barrier will definitely be present between me and some individuals. Also, I have never traveled to Europe, so I am aware that I will probably experience a culture shock in terms of traditions and lifestyle.

8. What do expect will be the most fun about your trip?

I think I will have a lot of fun being exposed to the different fabrication techniques and equipment over at IMEC. Plenty of researchers over there are leaders in their field. It will be a very pleasurable experience to be working and learning side-by-side with them.

Not to forget the fact that it is Europe, I will definitely be traveling around to different countries on the weekends. I have already planned the cities I am going to visit along with the train routes I will need to take to get there. Although I will be working at IMEC on the weekends, I will be pseudo-backpacking around Europe during my free time.

9. What do your family and friends think about you going on this trip?

I am very excited and grateful to INBT for being given this great opportunity to travel to Europe and perform research at IMEC. My friends and family are very excited for me, most wishing that they could join me. Everyone has been very supportive of this opportunity and I am incredibly excited to begin my journey.

10. Anything else?

This is the first year of the IMEC program, and I know that it took a lot of work to get it off the ground. I would like to thank Thomas Fekete, Ashanti Edwards, and everyone associated with the program, I now cannot wait for it to begin.


Michael Keung is keeping a blog on his adventures at IMEC in Belgium.  Click here to read it.

INBT symposium poster session prize winners

Over 80 posters were presented at the 3rd Annual NanoBio Symposium hosted by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology on May 18. Posters came from four divisions of the university, the Applied Physics Lab and also from industry. The first authors on six outstanding student research posters were awarded prizes. Winners include:

First Prize, iPod Nano, valued at $150

“MS-qFRET: A Quantum Dot-Based Method for Analysis of DNA Methylation,“ Vasudev Bailey, Alic Chen, Jeff Wang, collaboration between the School of Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Whiting School of Engineering Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Second Prize, Springer textbook, valued at $125

“Human Neural Stem Cell-Biomatrix Preparations as Tools in Reconstructing Neural Pathways,“ V. Machairaki, C. Yu, S. H. Lim, I. Nasonkin, H.-Q. Mao, and V. E. Koliatsos, a collaboration between the Whiting School of Engineering departments of Materials Science and Engineering and the School of Medicine Department of Neuropathology.

Third Prize Runners Up, $25 iTunes gift cards

“Chemiluminescent Solid Lipid Nanoparticles and Interactions with Intact Skin,“ Julia B. Patrone, Huong Le, Jennifer Breidenich, Lisa Kelly, Jason J. Benkoski, Amit Banerjee, and Jennifer L. Sample from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

“Neural Open Culture System Reveals Cellular Mechanisms of Axon Degeneration and Microglial Response,“ Suneil Hosmane, In Hong Yang, April Ruffin, Shilpa Sakhalkar, Parastoo Jangouk, Prech Uapinyoying, Nitish Thakor, and Arun Venkatesan, a collaboration between the School of Medicine’s departments of Biomedical Engineering and Neuroimmunology.

Fourth Prize Runners Up, $15 Barnes and Nobel gift cards

“One-Dimensional Optoelectronic Nanostructures Derived from the Aqueous Self-Assembly of Ï€-Conjugated Oligopeptides,“ J.D. Tovar, Stephen Diegelmann and Brian Wall from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences Department of Chemistry

“Dynamic Response of Low-Density Monolayers,“ Gloria K. Olivier, Donghoon Shin and Joelle Frechette from the Whiting School of Engineering Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Mechanical engineers use magnets, nanobeads to measure DNA torque

Schematic of Magnetic Nano-rod
DNA fiber attached to magnetic nano-rod bead can be wound and unwound using magnetic “tweezers“ shown above as blue (north) and red (south) magnets. Credit: Sun Lab/JHU

Torque measures the tendency of a force to rotate something around an axis—think of a tether ball on a string. Torque also comes into play when the enzymes that read genetic code travel along a length of DNA. The segment behind the enzyme unwinds, while the portion ahead becomes more coiled and compact. Researchers from Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology have developed a method that uses magnets and a nanobead to measure, for the first time, single molecule rotational forces involved in the winding and unwinding of DNA fibers within the chromosome. Understanding these forces could help scientists predict gene regulation and provide important information on molecular targets for the development of disease-fighting drugs. [Read more…]

Johns Hopkins Nanoscience, Neuroscience Symposium, May 18

Presentation at the poster session of the 2008 NanoBio Symposium. Credit: Will Kirk/JHU

Students and faculty are encouraged to submit posters for the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology third annual symposium Monday, May 18, 2009 at the School of Medicine. “Nanoscience for Neuroscience and Neurosurgery“ features Johns Hopkins faculty experts in nanobiotechnology, engineering, neuroscience, medicine, imaging, and public health. The poster submission deadline is May 4, 2009. Registration and poster title submissions may be made online at Prizes will be awarded for the best poster presentations. [Read more…]

‘Shape-shifting’ protein could form basis for universal biohazard sensor

See full image. Ribbon diagram of the prediction of the protein switch structure. Purple indicates “receptor” part of the protein switch.Yellow represents the target molecule and also the region where the catalytic reaction takes place. Light blue marks the enzyme part of the switch that catalyzes the chemical reaction. Credit: Monica Berrondo/Gray Lab/JHU

Biosensors—devices that convert biological responses into readable signals— detect tiny amounts of single target molecules. Single molecule detection systems form the foundation of biosensors, like the ones used to recognize biohazards such as anthrax. A better biosensor, however, would be able to change to detect not one, but hundreds of different target molecules. [Read more…]

Lab-on-a-Chip Shows How Cells Break Free

Bridget Wildt, a Johns Hopkins materials science and engineering doctoral student, describes how the lab-on-a-chip device enables her to trigger the cell detachment process and capture it on camera. Credit: Martin Rietveld/Mary Spiro/JHU

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering have invented a method that could be used to help figure out how cancer cells break free from neighboring tissue, an “escape“ that can spread the disease to other parts of the body. The new lab-on-a-chip, described in the March issue of the journal Nature Methods, could lead to better cancer therapies. [Read more…]

INBT Welcomes Director of Corporate Partnerships

Picture of Tom Fekete
Tom Fekete, Director of Corporate Partnerships. Credit: Mary Spiro/JHU

The Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) welcomes Thomas M. Fekete as its new Director of Corporate Partnerships. In this role, Fekete will act as a liaison between INBT faculty researchers and industry leaders. His aim will be to facilitate technology transfer from INBT affiliated labs to commercialization through industry. He also will work to coordinate student education and training opportunities through corporate partnerships.

Fekete comes to Johns Hopkins University with more than three decades of experience in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, primarily in a senior management role. He last worked for KV Pharmaceuticals of St. Louis, Missouri, as Director of Operations Projects. Prior to that, he directed manufacturing sites for Astaris LLC of St. Louis and held executive level positions in research, engineering and manufacturing for the chemicals operations for FMC Corporation in Baltimore and Philadelphia.

The holder of four U.S. patents, Fekete, earned his Master’s in Chemical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University and his Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Fekete will be working part-time from his office located at 211 Maryland Hall on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University. His office phone number is 410-516-8891 and email is

Researcher Seeks to Turn Stem Cells into Blood Vessels

Stem cells possess the potential to become any type tissue. This quality makes them ideal tools for possible therapeutic applications to treat or even cure many kinds of human suffering. Sharon Gerecht, affiliated faculty member of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) and assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, is using nanoengineered surfaces adorned with chemical cues, among other methods, to direct stem cells to differentiate into blood vessels. She also serves as a faculty mentor to students in INBT’s graduate training programs, postdoctoral program in Nanotechnology for Cancer Medicine, and the International Research Experience for Students. Read a recent faculty profile published by the Johns Hopkins Office of News and Information here: