Skip to main content

Integrative Science and Engineering Center

Current Projects

Available projects for Summer 2022 are listed below: 

  • Dr. Loan Bui, Biology Department and ISE Biomedical Cluster
  • Dr. Erick S. Vasquez, Chemical and Materials Engineering Department and ISE Environmental Cluster
  • Dr. Soubantika Palchoudhury, Chemical and Materials Engineering Department

The ultimate goal of this collaborative effort is to design novel nanoparticles to target cancer cell migration and transport. We have studied breast cancer cell migration using a microfluidic platform. We propose the fabrication of novel lignin magnetic nanocomposites, which are stable, bio-based compatible carrier systems. We will modify the magnetic nanocomposites by incorporating different targeting molecules and delivering various hydrophobic reagents using surface chemistry or nanoencapsulation procedures. The migrating cells were shown to express multiple cancer stem cell (CSC) biomarkers that can be exploited for targeting and treatments. For example, since migrating breast cancer cells express the CD44+/CD24- CSC phenotype, we can examine whether encapsulation of molecules such as CD44 receptors and bioactive reagents, such as Silibinin, Zerumbone, Vitamin D, to the nanoparticles can enhance targeting and inhibition effects on CD44 positive migrating cells, respectively. Our goal for this collaborative project is to develop a novel sub-micron/nanoparticle system that includes both targeting and therapeutic modules and study the impact of the nanoparticles on reducing breast cancer cell migration. Further, we will look for magnetically driven separation of targeted cancer cells using the proposed magnetic composites. Knowing that cancer migration can lead to metastasis, which accounts for 90% of cancer-related deaths, including breast cancer and currently is incurable, this study aims to defeat this particular population of migrating cells. A successful outcome could significantly improve the treatments for cancer patients.

This project is a collaboration between Dr. Bui, Dr. Vasquez and Dr. Palchoudhury, and all have expertise in drug delivery research. Dr. Bui specializes in microfluidic technology, cancer biology and tumor microenvironment mimicry. Dr. Vasquez is an expert in the field of functionalized nanoscale materials, with an emphasis on magnetic nanoparticles, and translational applications. Dr. Palchoudhury has extensive experience in materials discovery, synthesis of biohybrid nanodrugs, and materials characterization. Dr. Palchoudhury is keenly interested and specializes in understanding the fundamental physics driving in vitro and in vivo transport of novel nanoscale drugs through combined computational and experimental approaches. The student(s) participating in this research will obtain mentorship from both participating departments and the three faculty members. Student(s) will be trained in various hands-on nanoparticle fabrication and characterization, cell culture, microscopic imaging and biological analysis techniques. The student(s) will also have the unique opportunity to design experiments, work with state-of-the-art instrumentation, develop scientific literacy, analyze data, interpret results, write research reports or potentially manuscript drafts and serve as authors/co-authors. This research opportunity will be particularly beneficial for students who would like to conduct research studies as a team, gain significant interdisciplinary research experience, and those who would like to pursue professional research careers.

Selection Criteria

Student applicants should have experience working in chemistry or biology laboratories, a general interest in biomedical or bioengineering, and be willing to learn many scientific aspects and laboratory techniques.

  • Dr. Madhuri Kango-Singh, Biology Department and ISE Biomedical Cluster
  • Dr. Vijayan Asari, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department

We have established tumor models (brain tumor, intestinal tumor and epithelial tumor) in a simpler organism – the fruitf ly Drosophila. Our models coactivate the genetic lesions most commonly associated with human cancers and therefore are clinically relevant. We propose to use these models to test molecular markers for invasive metastatic changes in tumor cells using markers for tissue remodeling (Aim1), and use live imaging to trace cellular movement to study the association of tissue remodeling with invasiveness (Aim 2). Overall, data from these studies will provide ‘proof of concept’ for investigating the molecular signaling /changes in cellular properties involved in invasion and metastases, and provide data that will facilitate applications to national agencies for research funds.

At the completion of this project we expect to:

  1. Use markers of tissue remodeling used in cancer research to find a test set for invasive behavior
  2. Characterize the association of these markers with tumor-promoting growth signaling pathways
  3. Using imaging tools to find the specific changes that drive invasiveness and metastasis.

These studies will provide the framework for applying to extramural funding for the PIs, and for students to develop research projects (e.g., Honors’ or independent research) that is expected to lead to enriching outcomes (e.g., presentations in local/national research symposia and/or authorship in peer-review research publication).

Selection Criteria

We are looking for students with interest in genetics and biochemical signaling interaction mechanisms, and familiarity with basic Mendelian concepts. Prior experience with laboratory safety practices (e.g., in handling chemicals) and Drosophila genetics is not required but desirable.

  • Dr. Robert Lowe, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department
  • Dr. Erick S. Vasquez, Chemical and Materials Engineering Department and ISE Environmental Cluster
  • Dr. Paul E. Kladitis, University of Dayton Research Institute
  • Dr. Christopher Cooley, Oakland University

Soft piezoelectric (SP) composites, consisting of an ultra-stretchable rubbery matrix,
piezoelectric filler particles, and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) as inter-particle conductive bridges, show great promise as next-generation energy harvesting materials for converting mechanical vibrations to electrical energy. As part of an internally sponsored research project, the co-mentors fabricated an Ecoflex/PMN-PT/CNT soft piezoelectric composite using a mix-mold-cure process, obtained electro-mechanical property measurements, and developed a finite-strain constitutive model based on a gentle adaption of transversely isotropic non-linear electro-elasticity. The Ecoflex/PMN-PT/CNT SP composite exhibited high elastic stretchability (> 500% strain in tension) and a high piezoelectric coefficient (> 100 pC/N), the latter on par with brittle piezoelectric ceramics and nearly an order of magnitude higher than PVDF (the “go-to” commercial piezoelectric polymer).

Building on this exciting progress, this ISE CoRPs project is focused on leveraging materials engineering to tailor SP composite microstructure to optimize macroscale electro-mechanical properties and energy harvesting performance. Different microstructural features (e.g., PMN-PT morphology (particle vs. fiber vs. ribbon) and PMN-PT/CNT dispersion) will be tuned and controlled during composite fabrication, and the resulting properties quantified through electrical measurements and coupled electro-mechanical testing (tension, compression, pure shear). If successful, the proposed research could help provide a basic blueprint for designing and optimizing the next generation of self-powered electronics, opening the door for compelling applications such as biological energy harvesting, wearable biosensors, and embedded in vivo biodiagnostics.

This ISE CoRPs project is part of a multi-disciplinary collaboration between the University of Dayton (multiple research groups) and Oakland University. Through a summer-long immersion in the UD BAMS Lab, UD NEM Lab, and UDRI MSM Group, the ISE CoRPs summer researcher will be exposed to a wide range of the engineering spectrum: polymer chemistry, nanoparticle synthesis, composite fabrication, experimental mechanics, and electro-mechanical property measurement. All facilities have start-of-the-art laboratory equipment and well-established infrastructure for training and mentoring undergraduate researchers. During this experience, the summer researcher will learn valuable research-related soft skills, including how to read and interpret technical literature, how to deliver an effective technical presentation, and how to disseminate research findings through effective technical writing.

  • Dr. Angela Mammana, Chemistry Department and ISE Biomolecular Cluster
  • Dr. Gregory Carroll, Aerobiotix

There is currently a strong interest in using UV light to disinfect air. At the molecular level, germicide occurs when UV light interacts with and modifies a pathogen’s DNA. Understanding the irradiation and environmental parameters that modify the structure of DNA will facilitate developing and screening technologies for killing pathogens in the air. Circular dichroism (CD) and UV-Vis spectroscopy are convenient techniques for analyzing DNA. In this project, CD and UV-Vis will be used to analyze the efficacy of UV irradiation methods for modifying the structure of DNA. In collaboration with a local company that develops UV germicide equipment, the project will aim to understand the utility of using UVC LED lights for air disinfection and will shed light on the photochemical process of damaging DNA. Environmental
factors will be considered including interaction with surfaces, heating effects and aerosolization of DNA.

The participating student will gain experience working with a medical device company. The research will involve both fundamental and applied aspects. The student will gain hands-on experience working with DNA, and CD and UV-Vis spectroscopy and will learn about fundamental aspects of spectroscopy and photochemistry. Additionally, the student will learn how basic and applied research interfaces with industry and the economy. On the industrial side, the student will gain familiarity with the complexity of medical device development and the multidisciplinary science of operating rooms. The student will also gain experience working with a local start-up company and have the opportunity to see how science interfaces with business. The student will participate in using basic research as a tool to further technology development, and will help develop a basic photochemical approach to screen and compare existing germicide technologies and potentially uncover new insights into photo-induced DNA destruction. We expect that the student will get at least one publication out of this project.

  • Dr. Soubantika Palchoudhury, Chemical and Materials Engineering
  • Dr. Erick S. Vasquez, Chemical and Materials Engineering Department and ISE Environmental Cluster
  • Dr. Madhuri Kango-Singh, Biology Department and ISE Biomedical Cluster

Nanoscale materials such as magnetic nanoparticles offer exciting possibilities for realizing next-generation drug delivery platforms and medicine for cancer. A major aspect for the attraction of nanoparticles in medicine lies in the fact that it is easier to engineer new materials with desired properties such as water solubility and controlled release at the nanoscale through size, shape, and structural control. In this project, we will realize a new bio-inspired nanogel that can mimic the soft surfaces of a protein molecule to evade clearance by the body’s immune response. The nanogel will contain the drug molecules in the form of functionalized magnetic nanoparticles and will allow controlled release of the drug payload at the target site. One unique advantage of this nanogel will be its efficacy in combined therapy as an agent for
both hyperthermia and targeted drug delivery. The materials discovery and engineering in the first phase of the project will be combined with key biological research in the final phase. We will investigate the cytotoxicity profile and image in vivo distribution as well as accumulation of this new nanogel using a fruit fly model. This collaborative project between the three PIs, Dr. Palchoudhury in Chemical and Materials Engineering, Dr. Vasquez in Chemical and Materials Engineering, and Dr. Kango-Singh in Biology will explore the novel biomedical technologies achievable at the interdisciplinary interface of nanochemistry, polymeric materials, and biology.

The three PIs involved in this project bring unique expertise from their respective fields. Dr. Palchoudhury specializes in materials discovery and nanochemistry. Dr. Vasquez is a renowned expert in functionalized nanoscale materials and polymers. Dr. Kango-Singh is a renowned expert in drug delivery and cancer research. The students will have the opportunity to explore all three research laboratories through this project. They will have direct research training from all three PIs, which will promote innovation and critical-thinking skills through inter-disciplinary learning for the students. The students will also have the advantage of learning about the
emerging trends in all three fields, materials discovery and nanochemistry, biology, and polymers. This will encourage them to pursue further research and graduate studies. Specifically, the students will learn key synthesis strategies for engineering novel nanostructures, scientific writing, and presentation skills in Dr. Palchoudhury’s lab. They will also gain experience in cutting-edge materials characterization techniques including x-ray diffraction, and transmission electron microscopy under her mentorship. They will learn polymer-based functionalization strategies for engineering soft, biomimetic nanostructures through Dr. Vasquez’s direct mentorship. Dr. Kango-Singh will provide them with hands-on research training in advanced biological techniques including cytotoxicity analysis, and fluorescence imaging using fruit fly whole animal models.

  • Dr. Russell Kirk Pirlo, Chemical and Materials Engineering Department and ISE Biomedical Cluster
  • Dr. Loan Bui, Biology Department and ISE Biomedical Cluster

This project aims to develop microfluidic tissue-chips to model and investigate the process of breast and brain cancer cell sprouting and migration, the onsets of detrimental cancer metastasis. During this process, cancer cells express various matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) that degrade extracellular matrix and allow them to invade distant tissues. Microfluidic tissue-chips are small devices that model and isolate physiological phenomena, such as the growth or spread of cancer, by replicating cell and tissue architecture and function in a controlled accessible way. The project involves developing and refining the design and manufacturing process of 3D printed microfluidic tissue-chips with various channel geometries and tissue-like hydrogels to model the barrier degradation and migration of cancer cells. The student research will help to design chip-geometries, print them, mix hydrogel materials to model the extracellular matrix and create barriers via fluidic perfusion of the hydrogel. The devices will then be seeded with cancer cells and studied via microscopy and molecular analysis. Many skills are beneficial and may be employed including computer aided design (CAD), additive manufacturing, controls programming, chemistry techniques, cell culture, fluorescence staining, microscopy and imaging techniques. Experience in any of these areas could significantly increase the project scope and rate of progress, while others will be learned.

The program is a co-mentorship between biology and chemical engineering. The tissue-chip devices will be designed with computer aided design (CAD) and manufactured via 3D printing which make use of slicing software to generate the machine code. The student will learn how to design and fabricate devices with additive manufacturing as well as use fluidic devices for cell culture. They will also learn to mix and optimize hydrogel formulations used for cell studies, similar to those used in bioinks and bioprinting. The student will also be taught and practice cancer cell culture, biological assays such as ELISA, immunofluorescence staining and microscopic imaging. The student will learn how to visualize and quantify cell migration, measure the secreted MMPs and study the effect of MMP inhibitors on cancer cell migration.

  • Dr. Pothitos M. Pitychoutis, Biology Department and ISE Biomedical Cluster
  • Dr. Katia Del Rio-Tsonis, Miami University

In the context of this collaborative, interdisciplinary research project our team at the University of Dayton and Miami University will assess the neurochemical underpinnings of regeneration by using different animal models (e.g., chick embryo, axolotls or newts). Specifically, the selected UD undergraduate students will gain experience with animal regeneration models, as well as with ex vivo neurochemical, western blotting and immunohistochemical techniques. The successful applicants should have a demonstrated interest in the fields of neuroscience and/or regeneration and prior laboratory research experience. This project is part of a wider scientific collaboration between the Del Rio-Tsonis lab and the Pitychoutis lab to explore the neurochemical basis of regeneration.

The proposed interdisciplinary experiential learning project will offer hands-on, inquiry-based learning and will provide UD undergraduate students with the opportunity to develop a unique conceptual understanding of standard research techniques used in neuroscience and regeneration. The successful applicants will get the chance to work with cutting-edge regeneration models in the context of an existing collaborative project between the Del Rio-Tsonis and the Pitychoutis labs to assess the effects of regeneration in the brain using different animal models.

  • Dr. Amit Singh, Biology Department and ISE Biomedical Cluster
  • Dr. Muhammad Usman, Mathematics Department and ISE Biomedical Cluster

During organ development of all multi-cellular organism, axial patterning is required for transition of mono-layer organ primordium into three-dimensional organ by generation of antero-posterior (AP), dorso-ventral (DV) and proximo-distal (PD) lineages. Any deviation in axial patterning results in defective organogenesis which is manifested as birth defects. We will study axial patterning and growth using the Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) eye model. Since the genetic machinery is highly conserved from fruit fly to humans, these studies will provide insights into birth defects in humans. DV patterning, the earliest lineage restriction event, results in the formation of dorsal and ventral eye domains through antagonistic interactions of the dorsal selector and ventral genes. The DV boundary is the site for cell proliferation and differentiation. Our long-term goal is to generate deeper insights into the molecular, genetic mechanisms of this crucial process of DV patterning in the eye. There is a need to identify additional genes that are involved in DV patterning. We have identified a new dorsal fate selector gene defective proventriculus (dve). To generate mechanistic insights into the crucial developmental process of DV patterning in the early eye imaginal disc, we propose to study the role of dve in eye development and implications of loss of dve on early eye development.  This study will help to discern the mechanism by which dve regulate patterning, cell survival, and growth and thereby contributes towards DV patterning in the eye. In humans and other vertebrates, DV polarity of the retina directs the retinal axon projections to the brain. Our study will help (1) understand genetic basis of birth defects in eye and (2) early developmental events that affect the retinal axon projection to the brain during development and disease.   These studies will require statistical analysis to derive rescue percentages of neuronal population from developmental cell death. 

The student will be exposed to Drosophila Genetics, Microscopy, Immuno-histochemistry, statistical analysis and mathematical modeling. The student will develop a skill set of presenting research as lab presentations (power points) and also learn to present data as posters. The undergraduate researcher will be encouraged to present his/her research in Ohio Miami Valley Society of Neuroscience meeting at Miami University in summer and also participate in undergraduate 2021 Summer Science Research Symposium. The contributions from undergraduate researcher will be duly acknowledged in the future publications from the lab.

Selection Criteria

The project requires disciplined individuals with a desire to learn modern day innovative biological techniques and statistical approaches. A basic aptitude in biology and mathematics will be a great help to understand the project and prior training in handling Drosophila may be an added advantage.


  • Dr. Amit Singh, Biology Department and ISE Biomedical Cluster
  • Dr. Muhammad Usman, Mathematics Department and ISE Biomedical Cluster

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, is fatal with no effective cure to date. AD manifests as a gradual decline in cognitive functions of learning and memory. The neurodegeneration associated with AD also coincides with accumulation of amyloid-beta 42 (Aß42) plaques and NFTs, which triggers progressive neurodegeneration across brain regions. It is not clear how cellular changes contribute to the progression from an initial asymptomatic period into a phase of stark cognitive decline. The molecular genetic mechanisms underlying the Aβ42 mediated neurodegeneration are not fully understood. Many strategies including model organisms have been devised. Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly, with a large array of genetic tools, and similar genetic makeup to humans serves as an excellent model for human diseases including AD.  Drosophila can be used for high throughput genome wide-screens, and for therapeutic compound screens. We have established a transgenic fly model where we misexpress high levels of human Aß42 polypeptides in the retinal neurons of the eye, which exhibits AD like neuropathology of progressive neuronal death. This stable transgenic line exhibits Aß42 mediated cell death in nearly 100% flies at 29C. Our goal is to employ our Drosophila eye model to (a) identify downstream target genes and (b) use reporters/ sensors to detect and (c) look for complex interaction between Aß42 producing and wild-type neurons during Alzheimer’s neuropathology. We identified highly conserved growth regulatory Wingless (Wg)/Wnt signaling pathway as dominant modifier of Aß42 mediated neurodegeneration. The first aim is to determine the involvement of Wg signaling in Aβ42 mediated neurodegeneration. Wg signaling has been studied in cell survival and differentiation, and not in neurodegeneration. We will test if modulation of Wg signaling pathway can modulate Aβ42 mediated neurodegeneration. We will test if the reporters/sensors of Wg pathway can be used to detect Aß42 mediated neurodegeneration. Next, we will determine if Wg pathway activation trigger neurodegeneration in wild-type cells or in Aβ42 expressing cells. We will use our two clone system to determine if there is any cross-talk between the wild-type neurons and Aß42 producing neurons. Our hypothesis is that aberrant Wg signaling might trigger cell death in wild-type neurons. These proposed studies aimed to provide a useful blueprint to study cross talk between cell populations in neurodegenerative disease. This may potentially identify new biomarkers that can be differentially regulated between Aβ42-expressing and WT neurons. Better understanding of the local context of cell death in progressive neurodegenerative disease is a vital next step in developing new interventions to slow or halt disease progression. These studies will require statistical analysis to derive rescue percentages of neuronal population from developmental cell death. 

The student will be exposed to Drosophila Genetics, Microscopy, Immuno-histochemistry, protein chemistry, statistical analysis and mathematical modeling. The student will develop a skill set of presenting research as lab presentations (power points) and also learn to present data as posters. The undergraduate researcher will be encouraged to present his/her research in Ohio Miami Valley Society of Neuroscience meeting at Miami University in summer and also participate in undergraduate 2021 Summer Science Research Symposium. The contributions from undergraduate researcher will be duly acknowledged in the future publications from the lab.

Selection Criteria

The project requires a disciplined individual with a desire to learn modern day innovative biological techniques, and statistical approaches. A basic aptitude in biology and mathematics will be a great help to understand the project and prior training in handling Drosophila may be an added advantage.

  • Dr. Yvonne Sun, Biology Department and ISE Biomedical Cluster
  • Dr. Mrigendra Rajput, Biology Department

Macrophages are important phagocytes that can degrade intracellular pathogens and contribute to the initiation of adaptive immune responses. The activity of macrophages is therefore a critical component of our immune responses and is highly regulated to ensure appropriate immune responses are activated. This collaborative project will investigate how propionate, a metabolic byproduct of the gut microbiota, may influence the activity of macrophages upon infections by two different intracellular pathogens—Listeria monocytogenes and the human coronavirus. More specifically, the production of cytokines that contribute to T cell activation will be assayed by gene expression analysis. Ultimately, with this proposed project, we will understand how the metabolism of our gut microbiota can regulate our immune functions. 

The student will interact with Drs. Yvonne Sun and Mrigendra Rajput, who will act as research co-mentors and help provide the student with technical training and professional development. The student will meet with the faculty co-mentors on a weekly basis and will further interact with other research students to be immersed in an authentic biomedical research environment. In addition to experimental skillsets, the student will also develop research skills in critical evaluations of scientific literature, data analysis, and scientific communications through the participation of weekly lab meetings. Completion of the summer research experience, the student will gain hands on laboratory research skills in the field of host-pathogen interactions and develop a professional network among the students and faculty members in the research team.

Selection Criteria

Ideal students for this position should have a strong interest in biomedical research. Experiences in basic microbiology lab techniques are preferred but not required.


Integrative Science and Engineering Center

O'Reilly Hall
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 2357