CANCELLED: Spring mini-symposium features engineering, medicine

inbt-abstractCANCELLED: MINI-SYMPOSIUM TO BE RESCHEDULED. The Institute for NanoBioTechnology spring mini-symposium will be held March 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:15 pm. in the The Great Hall at Levering on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus. INBT sponsor’s these student run symposium’s twice a year to showcase the work of students from the institute, the Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, the Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence and other affiliated laboratories. This event is free and open to the Hopkins Community. Refreshments provided.


  • 8:30 -9:00  - Networking and breakfast
  • 9:00- 9:10 – Introduction
  • 9:10- 9:30 – “Probing cell traction forces in confined microenvironments” - Colin Paul, Konstantopoulos Lab
  • 9:30 – 9:50 – ” 3D tumor growth dynamics inside extracellular matrix (ECM) components” - Angela Jimenez, Wirtz Lab
  • 9:50 – 10:10 – “Acrylated hyaluronic acid hydrogels to study cancer angiogenesis” - Tom Shen, Gerecht Lab
  • 10:10 – 10:20 – Coffee Break
  • 10:20 – 10:40 – Amanda Levy,  “Development of a 3D system for the study of astrocyte-endothelial interactions” Searson Lab
  • 10:40 – 11:00 – Kristen Kozielski, “Bioreducible nanoparticles for efficient and environmentally triggered siRNA delivery to primary human glioblastoma cells”, Green Lab
  • 11:00- 11:20 – “X-Ray-Visible Stem Cell Delivery for Cardiac Regenerative Therapy via Microfluidics-based Microencapsulation” – Charles Hu, Mao Lab
  • 11:20 – 12:10 - “Advancing Innovation and Convergence in Cancer Research” Deputy Director of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Center for Strategic Scientific Initiatives (CSSI).- Dr. Jerry S.H. Lee
  • 12:10 – 12:15 – Final remarks

2013 Annual Meeting of American Institute of Chemical Engineers highlights NanoBio research

The 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) was held November 3-8 in San Francisco, CA. AIChE, the professional society for chemical engineers, hosted over 5,000 participants at the meeting, the largest AIChE conference yet. The conference offered great opportunities for learning about all aspects of chemical engineering and networking with movers and shakers from both academia and industry. I attended the conference and was one of several INBT-affiliated researchers to present my work, along with Kimberly Stroka (Konstantopoulos lab), Wei-Chiang Chen (Wirtz lab), and Pei-Hsun Wu (Wirtz lab). It was a great time to catch up with colleagues, and I met up with my undergraduate research advisor, friends from college, and past colleagues from Hopkins who have moved on to other institutions.

SanFrancisco-Annual2013-574-ssk_14602486The fascinating thing about the AIChE Annual Meeting is the wide variety of topics covered. The diversity of fields studied in chemical engineering has long been a source of pride for ChemE’s. I attended sessions covering topics as disparate as protein engineering, membrane separations, biosensors, industrial pharmaceuticals production, and cell migration, all while missing out on sessions about teaching, chemical engineering and the law, catalysis, and oil production. I was especially interested in research presented by industry professionals. These presentations gave me a new appreciation for the scope of industrial research projects, where changing one variable in a test tank can cost thousands and thousands of dollars.

Overall, the large number of sessions held at the conference provides great opportunities for students to give oral presentations, and undergraduate and graduate poster sessions enable even more students to publicize their projects. I would highly recommend the Annual Meeting for graduate and undergraduate chemical engineering students.

Colin Paul is a fourth-year PhD student in the laboratory of Konstantinos Konstantopoulos in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Institute for NanoBioTechnology.


Academic research internships are for grad students too

Cell migration assays

Before enrolling in the PhD program in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins, I didn’t know that academic internships were available for graduate students. When I was an undergraduate, I spent one summer working at a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at Iowa State University. REU programs are paid research internships that are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and hosted by universities throughout the country, and they are well-advertised by academic advisors. They provide great opportunities for undergraduate students to see what full-time research in an academic setting is like before committing to graduate school. My undergraduate research experiences were instrumental as I made the decision to apply to PhD programs.

However, I didn’t realize that similar opportunities would be available once I’d entered grad school. I was very excited to learn that INBT offers an International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program that is open to both graduate and undergraduate students. This program offers an incredible opportunity to work internationally. By partnering with the Inter-University MicroElectronics Centre (IMEC) in Leuven, Belgium, INBT gives students the chance to work in IMECs microfabrication facilities to develop biomedical devices. They have incredible fabrication facilities at IMEC, and students traveling there learn a lot about how microelectronics manufacturing techniques can be translated to answer biological questions.

Leuven pic-web

In July and August of 2013, I visited IMEC to work on using new imaging techniques to study cell migration. We are trying to make cell motility studies easy, affordable, and high-throughput. Time-lapse motility experiments are typically limited to labs focused on cell motility because they require expensive microscopes and specialized equipment. Therefore, not every lab that cultures cells can perform these experiments, even though tests of cell motility can tell researchers a lot about other cellular behavior.

At IMEC, I worked on using an affordable imager that could be placed directly in cell culture incubators to study cells in wound healing, random motility, microcontact printing migration, and microchannel migration assays. We had some promising early results, and our collaboration is continuing. The internship provided me exposure to techniques I wouldn’t have otherwise known about, and I learned a lot about building collaborations with other researchers.

Colin Paul is a fourth-year PhD student in the laboratory of Konstantinos Konstantopoulos in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Institute for NanoBioTechnology.

Mentors model academic pathway

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Johns Hopkins Nano-Bio Magazine and was written by Colin Paul, a third-year graduate student at Johns Hopkins University in the Konstantopoulos lab. He invites anyone with questions about or interest in the Incentive Mentoring Program to contact him at

When I was in high school, I had an inspiring chemistry teacher. He was funny, he rewarded hard work, and he let us light salt fires in paths around the soapstone lab benches in his classroom. He stayed after school to help my twin brother and me build a “ChemE Car” that used a chemical reaction to stop after a given distance, and we placed second in a competition for local high schools held by the University of Tulsa. He made the subject interesting, and his passion for it was contagious.


Charli Dawidczyk mentors Baltimore high school students. Photo by Mary Spiro

Before taking his class, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study in college. But as the year progressed, his mentorship helped me decide to pursue chemical engineering, and I’m still doing that as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University.

As a scientist, I hope I can inspire others to consider a career in science. Mentorship is particularly important to underrepresented groups in the sciences, such as minorities or women. It’s so important that the National Institutes of Health supports science education and outreach through its Office of Science  Education, and the National Science Foundation has made it a goal “to expand efforts to increase participation from underrepresented groups and diverse institutions throughout the United States in all NSF activities and programs.”

Johns Hopkins University is also increasingly leading efforts to improve Baltimore communities. In an editorial published in the magazine of the School of Advanced International Studies, Hopkins president Ron Daniels stated the need for Hopkins to help revitalize Baltimore and outlined some of the initiatives to do so.

Faculty, staff, and trainees at Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) are challenged to become more involved in mentoring pre-college students. Recently, INBT partnered with the Incentive Mentoring Program (IMP) to hold a “Science Day” for students at the Academy for College and Career Exploration (ACCE), a Baltimore high school near the Hopkins Homewood campus. IMP, founded in 2004 by Hopkins biomedical engineering graduate Sarah Hemminger, pairs mentors with underperforming Baltimore city high school students who were at risk of not graduating. The program has grown to incorporate several hundred volunteers from the East Baltimore and Homewood Hopkins campuses.

Colin Paul, center, looks on as high schoolers us liquid nitrogen to make ice cream. Photo by Mary Spiro.

Colin Paul, center, looks on as high schoolers us liquid nitrogen to make ice cream. Photo by Mary Spiro.

IMP provides comprehensive mentoring and tutoring to enrolled students, offering educational, legal, and career support to the students and their families. IMP is not merely a tutoring program in which volunteers help students with homework. Instead, it provides students with the social support they may otherwise lack. Teams of five to six mentors are assigned to each student, and these mentors coalesce into an extended family around the student, many of whom come from environments where even graduating from high school is an obstacle. So far, all of the students enrolled in IMP have earned their high school diplomas or equivalent degree.

As IMP grew, students from the laboratories of INBT-affiliated faculty members Peter Searson, Konstantinos Konstantopoulos, Hai-Quan Mao, Justin Hanes, and Andre Levchenko started to get involved. INBT sought to unite the groups for an event to encourage science education among the IMP students. The idea to hold a joint event came from Andrew Wong of the Searson lab, an INBT trainee who has been instrumental in IMP’s community service activities. I led the event, held on February 27, with Charli Dawidczyk, a doctoral student from the Searson lab.

Our first activity was to build a simple speaker using foam plates, magnets, and wire. Students learned how electromagnetic forces, whose strength and frequency vary depending on the song, deflect the foam plate to create sound waves when the plate is glued to a magnet with a coil of wire around it. The speakers weren’t loud, but everyone participated, even though they might have been more interested in the strong neodymium magnets.

Next, we moved from physics to chemistry and made liquid nitrogen ice cream. We discussed how liquid nitrogen boils at -321°F, much colder than water, and how it would very quickly freeze our liquid ice cream mix. The students made excellent chefs and were excited to see water vapor roil over the lip of the bowl as liquid nitrogen was stirred in to freeze the cream. The recipe got several thumbs up, and the demonstration really held their attention.

I hope the students saw how science comes up in everyday life, even in things we don’t always think about, like music and cooking. By having fun and doing experiments with their mentors and friends, they may realize that a career in science is an option for them. In many ways, IMP is an experiment on how to provide extended families for at-risk students. Problems are tackled on a trial-and error basis by volunteers from a variety of backgrounds. Often, an initial solution does not work; but, just like in the lab, we think about what went wrong and try to improve our approach.

The PIs at INBT have encouraged us to make a difference in the community. I’m grateful that my education at Hopkins has included IMP and the wonderful students and volunteers comprising the organization.