Research Program Options

The Summer Program offers a variety of research projects so that students can choose their projects in consultation with their mentors. These projects span a broad range of cutting-edge topics under four broadly defined areas. Students can choose one of 10 topics, which are divided into 4 thrusts. Click the Thrust Titles to read more about them.


Thrust 1 –  Intravital Optical Microscopy for Cellular Level Imaging

In this research area, the projects are focused on developing novel optical instrumentation and methods that address challenges in basic biomedical science and diagnosis. Light is uniquely well suited for non-invasively interrogating the microscopic structure, molecular composition, and biomechanical properties of biological tissues. Realizing these capabilities in practical instruments requires a multidisciplinary approach that addresses specific challenges by integrating advanced concepts from physics, engineering and materials science with biology and clinical experience. Below is a short list of active projects for the students with an academic background particularly in photonics, electrical or biomedical engineering, and physics.


Thrust 2 – Bio-Inspired Photonic Devices and Cell Lasers

This research area is focused on developing novel photonic devices using principles, materials, and structures that are biologically inspired or bioengineered, implantable, biodegradable, wearable, and that often mimic nature at scales from nano to macro levels. Such devices are primarily used for sensing, diagnostics, and therapeutic applications, solving the limitations of conventional optical devices and conventional approaches.


Thrust 3 – Optical Methods for Tissue Crosslinking and Cell Biomechanics

Our research focuses on developing photochemical and biophotonic methods to control and measure the biomechanical properties of tissue-engineering materials, tissues, and cells. The biomechanical properties of extra- and intra-cellular matrices and cell scaffolds play important roles in cell migration and mechanotransduction, and they have been linked to a variety of diseases, including atherosclerosis and cancer metastasis. Several engineering projects are available for students that may have long-term impact on the diagnosis and treatment of the related diseases, particularly regarding fundamental knowledge and technical innovation. Students interested in biomaterial engineering, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, and biophysics will be encouraged to work on these research topics.


Thrust 4 – Enhancement Strategies in Photodynamic Therapy

Despite the progress over the past decades in detecting and treating cancer, an outstanding problem in oncology is the battle against microscopic metastatic disease. The vast majority of cancer-related deaths are associated with the multitude of disseminated metastatic lesions that occur throughout the body. These lesions are often far too small and widespread to detect and resect, and in many cases become resistant to therapeutic intervention. How these lesions resist treatment is not well understood, as we are currently unable to visualize treatment response on the microscale in vivo.