REU: Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Biomedical Engineering Devices

Design and innovate with novel biomedical engineering device technologies!
Pending funding approval

For information contact

Dr. Greg Bashford

Professor, Biological Systems Engineering
402-472-1745
gbashford2@unl.edu

2019 Biomedical REU scholars at the end-of-year banquet.
2019 Biomedical REU scholars at the end-of-year banquet.

Who should apply


Related fields

  • Physics
  • Biological Sciences
  • Any engineering with interest in medical applications
  • Any science major with interest in medical applications

This program encourages applications from students with junior or senior standing.

Eligibility

Participation in the Nebraska Summer Research Program is limited to students who meet the following criteria:
  • U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Current undergraduate with at least one semester of coursework remaining before obtaining a bachelor's degree

See Eligibility for more information.

How to apply

Follow the application steps to submit the following materials.

About the Program

The Biomedical Engineering REU is designed to provide independent research experience for undergraduate students, broaden participant knowledge of opportunities in academia, industry and national laboratories, and introduce participants to interdisciplinary research in biomedical devices.

 The goal of every medical practitioner is to improve quality of life for patients. Biomedical engineering and devices are instrumental in achieving this. The primary focus in each summer research project is biomedical devices designed to enhance medical care through science and engineering, with emphasis in two areas: (1) devices for diagnostics and sensing and (2) devices for therapeutics and intervention.

All projects are designed to be completed during the 10 week program and are a part of a faculty mentor's current research. This allows the student to be involved in many aspects of research, including design, analysis, simulation, and implementation of a biomedical device.

Students are also extensively involved in lab activities, such as weekly lab meetings. Research results are presented during lab meetings throughout the summer and at the end-of-summer in the Summer Research Symposium poster session. Lab members, especially graduate students and postdoctoral associates, are active with summer program research.

Benefits

  • Competitive stipend: $5,000
  • Suite-style room and meal plan
  • Travel expenses to and from Lincoln
  • Campus parking and/or bus pass
  • Full access to the Campus Recreation Center and campus library system
  • Wireless internet access

Learn more about academic and financial benefits.

Events

  • Department seminars and presentations
  • Professional development workshops (e.g., applying to graduate school, taking the GRE)
  • Welcome picnic
  • Day trip to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo
  • Outdoor adventures
  • Research symposium

Mentors and Projects

Dr. Greg Bashford Biological Systems Engineering

Measuring Transient Cerebral Blood Flow Changes from Sensory Stimuli Using Transcranial Doppler

Ultrasound is a safe, noninvasive method of measuring blood flow in the body, and transcranial Doppler (TCD) is a special ultrasound mode that measures blood flow in cerebral arteries deep in the brain. TCD may be used as an inexpensive, portable method to measure brain response since neural activity is correlated with blood flow in the cerebrum. For example, a visual stimulus (such as a strobe light) can evoke a change in blood flow to the visual cortex. This can be seen by a relative decrease in the flow within the middle cerebral artery compared to the posterior cerebral artery. For clinical reporting, blood flow measurements are typically reduced to a pulsatile or resistive index. However, this index is typically based on long-term (i.e., tens of seconds) averages of data, and averaging removes the valuable real-time aspect of ultrasound.

Dr. Forrest Kievit Biological Systems Engineering

Nanoparticle-mediated sensitization of pediatric brain tumors to radiotherapy

Pediatric brain tumors contribute disproportionally to mortality in children because of the lack of available treatment options. Radiotherapy is one of the few effective adjuvant therapies available for these tumors after neurosurgical resection, but survival is frequently accompanied by radiation-induced lifelong developmental and learning disorders. As such, there is a significant need to reduce the amount of radiation required to achieve a curative effect. The goal of this project is to use brain tumor targeted nanoparticles to selectively sensitize pediatric brain cancer cells to radiotherapy.

Dr. Jung Yul Lim Mechanical & Materials Engineering

Molecular Mechanosensors of Flow-induced Stem Cell Migration

Migrating mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) contribute to homeostasis and modulate the repair of damaged tissues in vivo [15]. MSC migration-dependent regenerative medicine strategies such as cell therapies have, however, suffered from low efficiency in cell homing to the target tissue. While conventional soluble factor-driven static chemotaxis experiments have revealed some aspects of MSC migration and homing [16], there is a huge knowledge barrier with regard to how mechanical environments such as fluid flow-induced shear stress affect MSC migration [17]. Considering MSCs in vivo are exposed during migration to fluid flows in the blood vessel and interstitial space, this study investigates how physiologically relevant fluid shear conditions will affect MSC migration behavior. 

Dr. Eric Markvicka Mechanical & Materials Engineering

Developing the next generation of wearable computing

Wearables have emerged as an increasingly promising interactive platform, imbuing the human body with always available computational capabilities. This unlocks a wide range of applications, including discreet information access, health monitoring, fitness, and fashion. However, most commercially available wearables are primarily composed of traditionally rigid materials (e.g., metals and hard plastics), limiting their placement to locations of low movement or flexibility (e.g., wrist). To enable access to additional locations, the next generation of wearables will be constructed out of  soft, “skin-like” materials that closely match the mechanical properties of biological tissue. This REU project will work towards developing new soft, “skin-like” materials and holistic fabrication approaches that push the practical boundary of on-skin electronics that are not only functional but aesthetically pleasing.

Dr. Carl Nelson Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Robotic Technology for Next-Generation Minimally Invasive Surgery

Robotic tools are becoming a standard fixture in medicine, and particularly in surgery, where they can help enhance dexterity and visualization in minimally invasive approaches. Inserted, in-vivo robots (like miniature surgeon arms inside the abdomen) can have particularly high functionality. However, the small electric motors that typically drive these surgical robots are problematic: they take up too much space for too little force and speed capability, and electrical connections multiply the possible failure modes and reduce reliability.

Dr. Angela Pannier Biological Systems Engineering

High Throughput Screening of Clinical Compounds that Prime Nonviral Gene Delivery in Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) are a multipotent cell type found in numerous tissues in the human body, such as bone marrow, fat, and muscle.  Due to hMSCs multipotency and ease of obtaining, they have become one of the most widely researched stem cell types in fields such as tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and applications like targeted delivery of drugs/secretion of therapeutic proteins, and cancer therapy.  An area of high interest within these areas is genetic modification of hMSCs, which could be used to differentiate hMSCs, or to produce therapeutic proteins and signaling molecules.  However, potential clinical success of genetically modified hMSCs has been hindered by low efficiency of gene transfer to hMSCs via nonviral vectors.  While previous research has focused on modifying the delivery vector to increase transfection of hMSCs, the Pannier Lab is focused on identifying endogenous cellular factors, altered through chemical priming of clinically approved drugs that are important for successful nonviral gene delivery to hMSCs.

Dr. Sangjin Ryu Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Fabrication of Microscale Hydrogel Beads Using Cross-flow-based Droplet Generation

Microscale hydrogel spheres have been widely used for biomedical research, such as cell encapsulation or three-dimensional cell culture. This project aims to fabricate such hydrogel beads using our cross-flow-based drop generator. In this effort, the water-based pre-polymer solution of a hydrogel will be injected through a syringe needle into mineral oil that rotates in rigid body motion. Then, monodisperse droplets of the solution will be generated at the needle tip by the motion of the oil, and the polymerization of the droplets will be controlled by either ultraviolet light or chemical cross-linkers. 

Dr. Benjamin Terry Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Disappearable Cyber Physical System Sensors and Actuators

The goal of this REU research proposal is to enable the next generation of wearable sensors and actuators: those that disappear within the natural orifices of the human body. Specifically, we will use the gastrointestinal (GI) tract as a location for a long-term biosensing and control application. Doing so will enable invisible, unobtrusive, long-term physiological monitoring to address the problem of infrequent, clinic-based measurements. The GI tract is an ideal location for miniature biosensing systems due to its large volume and surface area, proximity to vital organs and systems, and because it is a natural pathway into and out of the body. In pursuit of this goal, the research objectives are to solve the problem of long-term persistence of sensors and actuators within the GI tract which will require in vitro and in vivo testing and trials of new attachment designs, methods, and systems.

Dr. Rebecca Wachs Biological Systems Engineering

Biomaterials and therapeutics to prevent low back pain

Low back pain is one source of orthopedic pain recognized as a widespread clinical problem resulting from degeneration and innervation of the intervertebral disc. Prevention of nerve growth into the intervertebral disc and reduction of painful stimuli has the potential to prevent disc-associated low back pain independent of disc degeneration.  Our lab develops natural biomaterial scaffolds to prevent undesired nerve growth and reduce nerve stimulation.  This project will work on developing and characterizing these natural material scaffolds and drug delivery devices to treat low back pain. Over the course of the first two weeks, the REU student will learn basic lab techniques such as how to isolate natural scaffolds, how to make decellularization chemicals, and how to decellularize tissue. During weeks three and four, the student will learn cell culture techniques and assays for analysis.  For the remainder of the summer, the student will culture various cell types including nucleus pulposus cells, macrophages, and/or stem cells in the decellularized tissue matrices to determine the effects of the matrix on cell phenotype and protein production.