Undergraduate Research Program

2010-11 WRF Fellows

Aaron Bestick - Electrical Engineering

Aaron Bestick working in labI have long been interested in tinkering with and building electronics and computers, so getting involved in research seemed like an obvious step after arriving at the UW. I first started in Alex Mamishev’s Sensors, Energy and Automation Lab (SEAL) in winter of my sophomore year. Since then, I have worked on a variety of projects, but my current work is on a collaborative project with the Veterans Administration to develop a new shear- and pressure-force sensor for use in prosthetics research.

My research work has given me a host of amazing opportunities that I never would have had otherwise. I have been able to work closely with faculty and other researchers to develop technologies that are quite literally the state of the art in my field, travel to an international conference in Ottawa, Ontario, to present our work, and to collaborate on projects that have helped inspire me to pursue a graduate degree in Electrical Engineering after I finish my undergraduate work. My eventual career goal is to work on the development of sensors or other biomedical devices.

In short, my involvement with research has been one of the most valuable experiences of my time at the UW. It is an honor to receive a Washington Research Foundation Fellowship to continue my work through my senior year.

Mentor: Alexander Mamishev, Electrical Engineering

Project Title: Capactive Shear Force Sensors

Abstract: Skin ulcers and irritation at the interface between a prosthetic device and a patient’s residual limb are common problems for amputees. At present, few quantitative methods exist for the measurement and adjustment of the forces exerted at this interface. A need exists for sensing technology which can be used to measure these forces and make precise adjustments to prosthetic geometry to increase wearer comfort. Our research objective is to produce a flexible, stretchable, capacitance-based shear and pressure force sensing array, which could then be integrated into a prosthetic socket liner, attached inside the prosthetic socket, and used to monitor and reduce factors which result in sores and discomfort.

Individual sensor array cells were composed of a top and bottom electrode plate separated by silicone rubber. Attached, microprocessor-based electronics were used to monitor the change in capacitance of each cell as it was deformed under load, and an algorithm was developed to derive the force applied to the cell based on its capacitance change. Finite element modeling was used extensively to optimize both the mechanical and electrical properties of the sensor cells to achieve the necessary sensitivity, dynamic range, and signal-to-noise ratio.

Subsequent research will focus on connecting multiple cells together using stretchable conductors to form a flexible, stretchable sensing array capable of measuring the interfacial force distribution inside a prosthetic socket. Other tasks will include integrating the array and associated electronics into a prosthetic liner, developing improved software to acquire sensor data, and testing and documenting the finished system. The end result of the project will be a complete, integrated sensor system that is ready for preliminary testing by biomedical researchers.

John Chandler - Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering

John Chandler sitting in labAs an undergraduate double majoring in Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering, I became interested in applying my coursework to many of the interesting engineering research problems I was being exposed to by my professors. My first research opportunity came when I was hired as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in Professor Wei Li’s Materials Processing and Manufacturing Lab. This position helped me to recognize my own research interests leading to my transition into Eric Seibel’s Human Photonics Lab (HPL) in the summer of 2009 for the CRANE Aerospace sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). Since joining the HPL, I have been able to pursue several research projects specifically related to my interests in the development and design of biomedical devices and instrumentation. My research has focused on the evaluation and improvement of endoscopic procedures, particularly those which are used for early detection and surveillance of diseases such as cancer. Currently, I am working on the development of a device capable of capturing endoscopic images of the entire inner surface of the bladder. The images from this device can then be combined using software into a 3D structural mosaic of the bladder’s inner surface, to improve the quality of current bladder cancer screening diagnostics. In order to continue my development as a researcher, I am currently applying to graduate school hoping to pursue a Ph.D. focusing on the application of engineering technology to medical devices. I am grateful for support provided by the Washington Research Foundation Fellowship and the opportunity it provides to pursue this project throughout the year.

Mentor: Eric Seibel, Mechanical Engineering

Project Title: Development of Automated Cystoscopy Tools to Achieve 3D Mosaicing of Bladder Urothelium

Abstract: Routine screening of high risk individuals by medical doctors through cystoscopy is standard clinical practice for the treatment and detection of bladder cancer. Regrettably, the current methodology for these procedures is imperfect and is one of the key contributing factors to bladder cancer being the most expensive cancer in the United States. New technology needs to be developed to improve the quality of bladder cancer screening with reduced cost per procedure. An automated bladder cancer screening system will be developed in the Human Photonics Laboratory, combining an automated cystoscopy tool, an endoscopic imaging device, and 3D mosaicing software. Automation of the bladder scanning process allows the procedure to be performed by any medical staff capable of inserting a cystoscope and the mosaicing software provides verification of a complete scan with diagnostic images available to clinicians after the procedure. These cystoscopy screening advancements would improve accuracy and precision of bladder cancer surveillance, while eliminating the need for a medical doctor to perform the procedure, significantly reducing procedural costs. My proposed research will lead the design and development of the automated cystoscopy tool, which will be used to insert and scan the imaging device inside the bladder to collect the necessary images for a full 3D mosaic. This research will be divided into three stages beginning first with the development of a simple cystoscopy tool to manually scan the bladder for mosaicing using a Scanning Fiber Endoscope (SFE) as the imaging device. Next, the insertion tool will be modified to work with an ACMI DUR-8 ureteroscope to demonstrate the commercial and clinical relevance of the proposed research. Finally, an automated image scanning process will be developed for the two tools to provide consistent and predictable image collection for the 3D mosaicing software.

Brent Delbridge - ACMS and Physics

Brent Delbridge hiking with Mt. Rainier in backgroundAs an Applied Computational Mathematical Science and Physics double major, I stumbled upon Seismology almost by accident. Prior to Fall 2009, my research had been limited to empirical data analysis methods for non-stationary and non-linear time series and Physics laboratory work, however that fall I begin working with Professor Heidi Houston on a recently observed and unexplained seismological phenomena called Episodic Tremor and Slip.

This research has required me to combine my passion for Physics and Mathematics to tackle tangible problems relating to the motion of the Earth’s plates, and the state of the Juan de Fuca seduction zone. I am motivated by the potential of this research to impact the seismic safety estimates for the Pacific Northwest as well as its potential to reveal new information about the basics physics of friction and Earthquake propagation. The Washington Research Fellowship Foundation has allowed me to push the boundaries of this research, and take the opportunity to fully explore all the facets of the project.

My work has been a balance of fieldwork for the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network’s Array of Arrays experiment, data analysis and theoretical modeling.

When not fretting over the uniqueness of solutions, or writing code at his computer, I can be found reading, hiking, or biking. I plan on continuing this research, and attending graduate school to obtain a Ph.D. in Geophysics.

Mentor: Heidi Houston, Earth & Space Sciences

Project Title: Identifying the Physical Mechanism of Episodic Tremor and Slip (ETS): Working towards a real-time stress indicator for prediction of a megatrust earthquake in the northwest

Abstract: Episodic Tremor and Slip is a recently discovered spatiotemporal correlation between subtle seismic signals, and slow slip events on subduction zones. The physics of these events are not well understood, however the process could hold valuable information regarding the seismic hazards addressing residents of Washington. ETS has the potential to act as a real-time indicator of stress loading in the Cascadia earthquake zone and help predict times of high probabilities for large earthquakes near Seattle. Further, understanding the character and locations of tremor epicenters could facilitate locating the locked segments of the Juan de Fuca plate, assisting seismic hazard officials by revealing how close to metropolitan areas these large earthquakes are likely to occur.

This study attempts to elucidate the physics of ETS through three separate but interconnected research components: analysis of tremor catalog data from the 2010 ETS episode which will be collected on the Olympic Peninsula this summer; comparison of previous research results to theoretical slip models; and further theoretical development of a new tremor propagation model.

Pranoti Hiremath - Bioengineering

Co-funded by the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium

Pranoti Hiremath in labInitially, an innate interest in the nature of living things brought me to research within the UW Department of Bioengineering. Research in the areas of vascular calcification and drug delivery served as a foundation for subsequent research experiences. However, my research direction changed after introduction to the exciting area of biomedical instrumentation, and after firsthand exposure to bioengineering needs through volunteering at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Currently, I perform clinical and translational research in Dr. Peter Richardson’s lab at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. With the group, I design and test creative engineering solutions for specific clinical needs, including neonatal ventilation and thoracic insufficiency syndrome. My project involves working with engineers skilled in implanting designs and with clinicians who understand patient need.

In addition to research, I am interested in global development and the contribution of bioengineering to global health needs. To this end, I am involved in leadership of Bioengineers Without Borders, a student group whose goal is to develop and deploy innovative medical diagnostics for use in developing nations. In summer 2010, through a medical internship with Child Family Health International in India, I performed research on the Indian health care system with an emphasis on the role of medical technologies.

After graduating, I plan to pursue an MD, and aim to perform clinical research through a career in academic medicine.

Mentor: Peter Richardson, Pediatrics and Seattle Childrens Hospital Research Institute

Project Title: Noninvasive Expansion System for the Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib: A surgical tool for improving treatment of Thoracic Insufficiency Syndrome

Abstract: Thoracic insufficiency syndrome (TIS) describes congenital and developmental spine and chest wall disorders that produce respiratory restrictive disease, which severely limits normal respiration. TIS manifests primarily in young children, who may experience lung and heart failure in the absence of treatment. Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib (VEPTR) expansion thoracoplasty surgeries are designed to address volume-depletion deformities caused by TIS. However, the VEPTR device requires recurrent manual surgical intervention in order to expand with patient growth; the surgical constraints carry high risk and subject the patient to great physical and psychological stresses. I propose to design a noninvasive expansion system for the VEPTR that allows full functionality in ‘ITS treatment but limits the requirement for invasive expansion of the device. The device must permit continuous or noninvasive expansion, retain durability throughout the treatment, limit fretting at tissue-metal interfaces, and pass biocompatibility and device insertion standards. The project will begin with a computational model for the proposed design solution, to be tested in silica, and will extend into development of a physical prototype. The final prototype will be evaluated through testing with physical simulation of physiological forces.

Jane Hung - Mathematics and Physics

Co-funded by the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium

Jane Hung in front of computer screen in labAt the age of 16, I left high school after my sophomore year to enter the University as a UW Academy student. I had it in my mind that I wanted to take advantage of one thing that made the University world renowned: research. Accordingly, I applied to the Summer Undergraduate Research Program, and a few months before the start of the school year, I began research with Professor Xiaosong Li and his computational chemistry group. Thanks to the NASA Space Grant Consortium (with a special thanks to Carlos Chavez) and the Mary Gates Endowment, I had tremendous support throughout my first research experience. That initial experience showed me how exciting and challenging research could be, so I decided to stay in the Li group and gain more valuable experience with new projects.

For over a year, I have been working on a computational study of nonlinear optical chromophores, which may play a key role in future nanotechnologies and photovoltaic devices (e.g. LEDs and solar cells). This project has allowed me to work directly with professors, graduate students, and senior research scientists from very different fields. As a consequence of these interactions, I have grown as a researcher, presenter, writer, and student. I have even become a published author.

The insight I have acquired into the materials of the future is absolutely priceless, and my goal now is to help turn clean technology into global power.

Because of the immense generosity of the Washington Research Foundation and the NASA Space Grant Consortium, I can continue to research and develop materials that will become vital future technologies.

Mentor: Xiaosong Li, Chemistry

Project Title: Enhancing First Hyperpolarizability of Nonlinear Optical Chromophore by Substitutions on the Polyene

Abstract: Highly efficient, organic nonlinear optic (NLO) chromophores are being developed as promising candidates for new electro-optic (E-O) devices and nanotechnologies. The E-0 response of chromophore efficiency improves with the increase of the second-order polarizability (p). Considering Dewar’s predictions on organic dye structures, the effect on p of single or multiple substitutions of electron donating or electron accepting groups to the conjugation bridge of phenyltetraene-based donor-rc-bridge-acceptor chromophores is investigated. The overall effects of the substitutions can be studied by density functional theory (DFT) calculations with two state model approximations and by finite field calculations. Several common electron donating groups (-OCH3, phenoxide, -N(CH3)2, -NH2) and electron withdrawing groups (-SCH3, -COCH3, -CN, -F) are used as substituents. Bond length alternation (BLA) analysis shows the range of optimal BLA and can characterize the results.

Mark Lisowski - Biochemistry and Biology

Co-funded by the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium

Mark Lisowski working in labGrowing up I always had endless questions about biology, because everything from moss to the human body seemed incredibly complex and fascinating to me. Now, after years of terrific science classes and research experiences, I have more questions than ever! One topic that particularly interests me is diabetes, because it has tremendous effects on people worldwide, and because the etiology of this disease is still not fully understood. I currently work in the laboratory of Dr. Ian Sweet, whose research focuses on advancing our knowledge of the causes, effects, and possible treatments for diabetes. My present project aims to elucidate new components of the intracellular pathways that regulate the secretion of insulin, a hormone that is critically involved in regulating the levels of glucose in our blood.

Being involved in research has taught me more than I could have imagined. It has given me the opportunity to work with experienced scientists and to learn cutting-edge techniques. And of course it has expanded my base of knowledge in biochemistry, physics, and biology. Research has further solidified my interest in human biology and medicine, and so after graduating in the spring of this year I plan to apply to MD/PhD programs. I would like to thank the Mary Gates Endowment, Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium, and the Washington Research Foundation for supporting the research that has so profoundly shaped and enriched my undergraduate experience.

Mentor: Ian Sweet, Medicine

Project Title: Identification and Characterization of Calcium-Sensitive Processes that Mediate Insulin Secretion

Abstract: Dysfunction of pancreatic 0-cells leading to inadequate insulin secretion is a major determinant in the development of diabetes. A detailed understanding of the intracellular processes that mediate insulin secretion is therefore critical to advancing diabetes research, and may provide the foundation for new or improved diabetic therapies. Studies from the lab of Dr. Ian Sweet have shown that both metabolic stimulation and calcium influx are required for insulin secretion, and that insulin secretion is accompanied by a high rate of energy usage. This has led to the hypothesis that a highly energetic, calcium and metabolism -sensitive process (named the CMCP) mediates insulin secretion. The focus of my research is to identify the proteins that are involved in the CMCP and to further characterize the role of the CMCP in insulin secretion. Previous data has supported the existence of the CMCP in a P-cell line (INS-1 832-13), and so this cell line will be used to identify CMCP proteins. Collaborating scientists will first isolate and identify possible CMCP proteins. I will then determine whether these proteins are involved in the CMCP by inhibiting or stimulating the proteins and observing the resulting response of intracellular calcium levels, oxygen consumption, and insulin secretion. Measurements of these parameters will be carried out using a sophisticated flow-culture imaging system. I have additionally optimized this system so that measurements can be made for a single pancreatic islet (about 1,000 cells), allowing me to observe small changes in CMCP activity that would not be possible to resolve if multiple islets were used.

Jonathan McMichael - Bioengineering

Jonathan McMichael working at the microscope in labAfter looking for some time for the right fit in a research laboratory, I began studying cardiac muscle mechanics under Dr. Mike Regnier during my sophomore year. While my work initially involved examining muscle regulation through protein-protein interactions, these projects evolved into the larger scale I currently work with: whole muscle tissue. This year I will be working between Dr. Regnier’s lab and Dr. Margaret Allen’s lab at Benaroya Research Institute to develop an implantable scaffold to enhance healing in sites of skeletal muscle trauma. I truly appreciate the support of the Washington Research Foundation as I carry out my senior capstone design project.

In the constantly advancing biotechnology field, experience with technology rights and legal procedures is becoming increasingly valuable. Following my graduation this spring, I plan to pursue further education in bioengineering, as well as a strong foundation in the law. With these tools I hope to enter a career as a bioengineer with legal training, and work to commercialize new medical devices and technologies.

Mentor: Michael Regnier, Bioengineering

Project Title: Measurement of Force Development in Intact Cardiomyocytes

Abstract: The contractile properties of cardiomyocytes are altered in heart diseases such as hypertrophic (HCM) and dilated (DCM) cardiomyopathy. Past studies have been limited to protein-protein interactions and contractile properties of demembranated cardiac tissue or single myofibrils. Measurements from isolated intact cardiomyocytes are difficult because of cell size, fragility and difficulty in attaching cardiomyocytes to force measurement devices without damage. A method to successfully attach cells to force transducers and length changing motors would greatly benefit research in HCM, DCM and other cardiac diseases. I propose to develop an apparatus to measure force development in intact cardiomyocytes. The work will be approached in a series of three phases. In the first, glass microneedles will be designed to appropriate specifications to deflect under normal cardiomyocyte force. Microneedle design will be a recursive process, and will also include an examination of ideal shapes to achieve cell adhesion. Following this work, various adhesive materials will be characterized for their ability to withstand forces of the same magnitude as cardiac muscle cells. In addition to determining the most suitable adhesive, an electrical drive system will be designed to perturb cells for data collection by the instrument. The final project phase will be an application of the designed apparatus to intact cardiomyocyte infected with mutant forms of troponin C (the myofilament protein that binds calcium and triggers contraction) that mimics effects of HCM and DCM. Results are expected to clarify data previously collected from demembranated tissue and cell subunits. Importantly, it will allow us to extend studies to the coupling between calcium handling and myofilament contraction. Results will elucidate a novel method of quantifying force development in intact cells, and indicate further research directions toward the mediation of heart disease. Dr. Michael Regnier of the Department of Bioengineering will serve as primary mentor for this work.

David Ojala - Chemical Engineering

Co-funded by the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium

David Ojala working in labMy research experience began two years ago in Dr. Mary Lidstrom’s lab under the supervision of Dr. Marina Kalyuzhnaya. As an undergraduate in chemical engineering, I noticed a need for engineers working at the border between engineering and biology. The Lidstrom lab does just that, applying engineering ideas to biological issues. I became particularly interested in studying methanotrophs, microbes that grow on methane. Methanotrophs have great potential for use in biotechnological applications such as bioremediation and biocatalysis. The application my project focuses on is enhancing microbial oxidation of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to methanol. Methanol is used as both a chemical feedstock and a fuel. Metabolic engineering of methanotrophic bacteria is an effective way to convert methane emissions from waste resources to a value-added commodity.

Researching as an undergraduate has been a transformative educational experience for me. I’ve been able to recognize how concepts from my coursework can be applied to the biological systems I research. That’s a powerful way to learn. After graduating with my undergraduate degree in chemical engineering, I will pursue a Ph.D. focusing on metabolic engineering of microorganisms. In particular, I am interested in the scale-up of biotechnological processes from bench-top to industrial implementation. I am grateful for the Washington Research Foundation/Space Grant support of both my research and long-term goals.

Mentor: Marina Kalyuzhnaya, Microbiology

Project Title: Microbial Catalysts of Methane to Methanol Processes

Abstract: Methanotrophs are microbes that oxidize methane to methanol with high efficiency. Oxidation of methane to methanol is an attractive solution for reducing methane emissions because methanol is a value-added commodity utilized as both a fuel and chemical feedstock. The major goal of my research project is to develop microbial processes to convert methane to methanol on an industrial scale.Effective microbial oxidation of methane to methanol is currently limited by the lack of robust methanotrophic strains that can tolerate the extreme conditions found in industrial processes while producing a high yield of methanol. A screening of potential candidates for industrial use revealed Methylomicrobium sp. 20Z, a methanotrophic bacteria isolated from soda lakes. Methylomicrobium sp. 20Z tolerates a wide range of pH and salinity while exhibiting relatively high rates of methanol production. I will be optimizing 20Z to increase methanol yield. Mutagenesis of 20Z will focus on key facets of methanotroph metabolism. Single amino acid mutations of pMMO, the enzyme which catalyzes methane oxidation, will be characterized to elucidate the mechanisms for methane oxidation in 20Z. Much of the methanol produced by methanotrophs is further oxidized to formaldehyde by methanol dehydrogenase. Replacing the high efficiency methanol dehydrogenase found in 20Z with a lower efficiency enzyme from another organism could improve accumulation of methanol. Alternative or duplicate pmoCAB copies that encode pMMOwill be inserted to overexpress the methane oxidation system in 20Z. Ultimately, genetically engineered strains could be used in industrial bioreactors to convert methane emitted from waste resources to methanol.

Jun Park - Bioengineering

Jun Park pipetteing in labIt was my presentation assignment for my honors biology seminar class during my sophomore year when I first came across the current problem with stents. While preparing for the presentation, I realized that there are over 700,000 patients who undergo stent surgeries each year, but with 33% of those patients suffering from stent failures called in-stent restenosis. Despite the known shortcomings involved with stents, stent surgeries have become very popular as the benefits outweigh the risks: it really bothered me, and I thought something had to be done to address this problem. The summer after my freshman year, I joined the materials science lab of Professor Mehmet Sarikaya. Working in the lab for over 2 years, I gained much valuable skills and knowledge of genetically engineered peptides that bind to inorganic surfaces such as gold and titanium. Having investigated various aspects and applications of the inorganic binding peptides, I decided to tackle that medical challenge I came across few years ago. After graduation, I plan to pursue a MD-PhD degree, and I hope to contribute to the field of biomaterials during my career as a research scientist. I am thankful for the generous support provided by the Washington Research Foundation Fellowship as it allowed me to focus on my research and further motivated me to pursue a career in biomedical research.

Mentor: Mehmet Sarikaya, Materials Science and Engineering

Project Title: Accelerated Endothelialization of Stents by Titanium-Binding Peptide Conjugated with Integrin-Binding RGDS: Recruitment of endothelial progenitor cells and inhibition of neointimal hyperplasia

Abstract: Immobilization of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) on stent surfaces have previously been identified as a potential solution to solving the current problem with stents: in-stent restenosis, the re-narrowing of the blood vessels due to scar tissue formation around implanted stents. Despite the effective reduction of in-stent restenosis, current drug-eluting stents face various challenges including side effects involved with anti-inflammatory drug coatings, high risk of thrombosis and high costs. In this study, a novel bifunctional peptide with two binding motifs, one that can bind to a titanium oxide layer, TiBP, and the other that can bind to EPCs, RGDS, will be synthesized into a single peptide construct and utilized to create peptide-functionalized stents that can capture EPCs. The material specificity and self-assembling characteristics of the TiBP-RGD peptide will help immobilize circulating EPCs onto the stent surface, promoting neighboring endothelial cell proliferation and preventing scar tissue formation around the stent. In order to verify successful immobilization of EPCs on the stent surface, the targeting specificity and binding affinities of TiBP-RGD peptide toward metal stents and EPCs will be tested on commercially available stents, as well as stents coated with titanium or gold layers. EPC immobilization will be tested in vitro and ex vivo under lateral flow conditions. Cell immobilization will be verified using histomorphometric analysis, bright field microscopy of the extransplanted stents, surface plasmon resonance spectroscopy and high performance liquid chromatography to quantify peptide binding and cell detachment.

Alexander Spott - Physics and ACMS

Alexander Spott working in labThough my interest in science and engineering has always been apparent, my particular interests were unclear when I first entered the University of Washington. After much deliberation, I entered the electrical engineering department in my sophomore year. Intending to gain some research experience, I joined the UW Nanophotonics Group to work with Professor Hochberg on silicon photonics. I quickly became immersed in the lab and after two quarters I decided to take the following year off of school to work for the lab full-time. During this time, I was able to better identify my research and academic interests and have since changed my major to physics.

By being able to devote all of my time to research for a full year, I was able to take a larger role in our mid-infrared waveguiding project. That year, I helped successfully demonstrate the first waveguides for wavelengths as long as 4.5 µm. I have continued this project since, and took the lead in our recent demonstration of the first ring resonators on silicon for wavelengths near 5.5 µm. Over the summer, I was given the chance to present my work at the 7th International Conference on Group IV Photonics in Beijing, China. I intend to continue work on mid-infrared silicon photonics in a PhD program in graduate school.

Mentor: Michael Hochberg, Electrical Engineering

Project Title: Silicon Nanophotonic Waveguiding for the Mid-Infared

Abstract: It has been demonstrated that silicon nanophotonic waveguides can be used to construct all of the components of a photonic data transmission system on a single chip. Complex electro-photonic integrated circuits can be constructed from the integration of nanophotonic waveguides and CMOS electronics. It has also been shown that the high field confinement of silicon nanoscale guides enables a variety of new applications, including chip-scale nonlinear optics, as well as biosensors and light-force activated devices. Currently, the majority of experiments with silicon waveguides have been at wavelengths in the near-infrared between 1.1-2µm. Here I discuss our recent demonstration of the world’s first single-mode silicon nano-waveguides at mid-infrared wavelengths as long as 5.5pm. This idea has appeared in theoretical literature, but experimental realization has been elusive. I have further helped demonstrate the first working ring resonators at these wavelengths. These results represent the first practical integrated waveguide system for the mid-infrared in silicon, and enable a range of new applications and potential for further development.

James Wong - Bioengineering and Computer Science

Co-funded by the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium

James Wong sitting in labResearch has been a major component of my undergraduate education at the University of Washington. It has not only allowed me to creatively apply my knowledge from coursework but also taught me perseverance and resourcefulness. Oftentimes an obstacle in research can only be overcome after consulting one’s peers and delving deeper into literature. I first became involved in research the summer before my freshmen year. I worked in the Nonlinear Dynamics and Control Lab under Dr. Kristi Morgansen with a few graduate students. There, I learned control algorithms for autonomously controlling a trio of robotic fish. A year later, I became a member of Dr. Lutz and Dr. Yager’s microfluidics lab which focuses on the development of point-of-care diagnostics for developing countries. Since then, I have been constantly working with other lab members on projects aimed at finding new ways to lower the development costs of diagnostics. My research experience has greatly supplemented my undergraduate education and has been a prominent influence on my career goals. After graduation, I hope to develop novel solutions to medical problems and shortcomings.I am grateful to the Washington Research Foundation and to the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium for supporting my education and research.

Mentor: Barry Lutz, Bioengineering

Project Title: Microfluidic Steady Streaming to Reduce Diffusion Limitations and Accelerate Chemical Reactions and Bioassay Binding

Abstract: Diffusion limitations are a barrier towards designing effective point-of-care diagnostics and performing accurate kinetic measurements, two crucial areas of research. Point-of-care diagnostics plays a key role in developing countries by alerting clinicians when patients need medical attention, providing crucial data for global health initiatives to deal with infectious diseases, and maintaining sterile blood banks. Improving global health requires accurate diagnostics while meeting economical constraints. In developing countries, where resources are scarce, samples must be used economically and processed efficiently. Accurate kinetic measurements also are needed for scientists and engineers who need to manipulate specific chemistries for their experiments and applications. In an effort to create a microfluidic device to satiate these needs, this project will demonstrate the applicability of steady streaming to enhance mixing at reaction sites. Despite previous attempts to enhance mixing at reaction surfaces and to eliminate diffusion complications, these problems still persist for most reactions and bioassays which significantly slow down the reaction rate. Recently, steady streaming methods have been successfully applied in microfluidics to generate microeddies, or microscale whirlpools, which are favorable for mixing and will thus be explored. This project consists of three phases: (1) a setup and microfluidic device design for controlling the characteristics of the eddies in the microfluidic device will be developed, (2) quantitative evaluation of the steady streaming device will be performed with chronoamperometry and sets of optimal steady streaming parameters for enhanced mixing will be finalized, and (3) mixing enhancement using these finalized designs will be quantitatively demonstrated for well-characterized and diffusion limited reactions monitored using surface plasmon resonance imaging. The outcome of the project will be a microfluidic device utilizing steady streaming that is optimized (1) to accelerate the binding rates of bioassays and (2) to improve the instrumentation for accurate kinetic rate measurements.