Events Calendar

Texas Distinguished Faculty Lecture (TDFL) presents: "Manipulating Cells with Materials"

Tuesday, May 9, 2023
9:30 am - 10:30 am

Location: NHB 1.720

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The West Lab has worked extensively in the development of surfaces and 3D scaffold materials that provide a high degree of control over cell adhesion and signaling events.  These materials support very low levels of protein adsorption, and thus cell-material interactions are restricted to those intentionally engineered into the material design.  Hydrogel scaffold materials have also been developed that are degraded in response to cellular proteolytic activity.  This allows materials to degrade in response to cell activities such as migration rather than continuous hydrolysis as is seen in common polyesters.  We have developed patterning technologies in both 2D and 3D to allow spatial control over cell-material interactions.  Image-guided laser scanning lithography has allowed us to recapitulate cellular focal adhesion complexes with nanoscale resolution to control and manipulate cytoskeletal architecture of cells seeded on these patterned surfaces.  We can prepare highly homogeneous cellular arrays using this technology.  Two-photon laser scanning lithography allows 3D micropatterning of covalently immobilized peptides and proteins in hydrogels, again with nanoscale resolution, to guide cell migration and network assembly.  This technology allows free-form 3D patterning for material fabrication, immobilization of bioactive factors, or manipulation of mechanical properties.  Additionally, confocal images from tissues can be used to develop patterning instructions in order to recapitulate complex tissue architectures within scaffold biomaterials.


Jennifer West joined UVA as Dean of Engineering and Applied Science in July 2021.  Prior to this, she had been on the faculty at Duke since 2012 where she served as Associate Dean for Doctoral Education, after having been the department chair and Cameron Professor of Bioengineering Rice University.  Professor West was one of the founding members of Rice’s Department of Bioengineering, building it to a top ten program over the prior sixteen years.  In 2019, the Duke Graduate School honored her with the Dean’s Graduate Mentoring Award.

Professor West’s research focuses on the development of novel biofunctional materials.  Part of her program has developed nanoparticle-based approaches to biophotonics therapeutics and diagnostics.  An example of this work is the application of near-infrared absorbing nanoparticles for photothermal tumor ablation.  In animal studies, this therapeutic strategy has demonstrated very high efficacy with minimal side effects or damage to surrounding normal tissues.  Professor West founded Nanospectra Biosciences, Inc. to commercialize the nanoparticle-assisted photothermal ablation technology, now called AuroLase.  Nanospectra Biosciences, Inc., located in Houston, TX, is the recipient of a NIST ATP Award and a grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.  Professor West is a director of the company.  The company has built manufacturing facilities, and AuroLase cancer therapy is now in human clinical trials.

Professor West has received numerous accolades for her work.  In 2017, she was elected to the National Academy of Inventors.  In 2016, she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.  In 2015, she received the Society for Biomaterials Clemson Award.  In 2014, she was recognized by Thomson Reuters as a Highly Cited Researcher, the top 1% in the field of materials science.  In 2010 she was named Texas Inventor of the Year and also Admiral of the Texas Navy (highest honor the governor of Texas can bestow on a civilian).  In 2008, The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas honored her with the O’Donnell Prize in Engineering as the top engineer in the state.  In 2006, she was named one of 20 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professors, recognizing integration of world class research and teaching.  She has been listed by MIT Technology Review as one of the 100 most innovative young scientists and engineers worldwide.  Other recognitions include the Christopher Columbus Foundation Frank Annunzio Award for scientific innovation, Nanotechnology Now’s Best Discovery of 2003, Small Times Magazine’s Researchers of the Year in 2004, and the Society for Biomaterials Outstanding Young Investigator Award.

Professor West has authored more than 200 research articles.  She also holds 20 patents that have been licensed to nine different companies.  Professor West has served as a member of the CSR Council and the Bioengineering, Technology, and Surgical Sciences study section at NIH, and has served on numerous other review boards for NIH and NSF.  She has also been a member of the Defense Sciences Study Group, a member of the NRC panel on management of university intellectual property, and a member of the AAMC panel on research.  She has served as Chair of the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and treasurer for the Biomedical Engineering Society.  Her laboratory has received funding from NIH, NSF, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and DOD.

Speaker: Dr. Jennifer West, University of Virginia