The second annual CMMB IGERT PI and Trainee Meeting was held on August 31, 2011. Dr. Saif walks through the goals and current status of the programs, and introduces the students involved.
M Taher Saif PhD, Mechanical Engineering, Illinois
Professor Saif's research focuses on the mechanics of nanoscale materials and living cells. He uses both theory and experiment to explore (1) the effect of size on the mechanics of materials, and (2) the role of mechanical force in determining the functionality of cells and cell clusters.
Professor Saif demonstrated experimentally, for the first time, that plastic deformation in nanocrystalline metal films can be reversible. After plastic deformation, metals with grain sizes between 50 and 100 nanometers recover most of their plastic strain under macroscopically stress-free condition. This recovery is time dependent and thermally activated. Saif showed that the recovery originates from the small size and heterogeniety of microstructure of the metal specimens. The research, which was reported in Science, raises the possibility of manufacturing metal components that can heal themselves after being deformed or dented.
In the area of cellular mechanics, Professor Saif's projects involve neurons, cancer and cardiac cells, and interactions between cells in clusters. He seeks to address questions such as: What is the role of tension in neurons on memory and learning? Does mechanical microenvironment influence the onset of metastasis during cancer development? Can clusters of cells be guided so that they evolve into biological machines? He, together with Professor Akira Chiba of the the University of Maimi, showed that neurons are under mechanical tension, and that such tension might be essential for memory and learning.
Midwest Cancer Nanotechnology Traning Center (M-CNTC) Training the next generation of leaders who will define the new frontiers and applications of nanotechnology in cancer research It is known that more than 1.5 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer during 2010, and half a million have died (Cancer Statistics 2010, ACS). In spite of considerable effort, there has been limited success in reducing per capita deaths from cancer since 1950. This calls for a paradigm shift in the understanding, detection, and intervention of the evolution of cancer from a single cell to tumor scale.
In response to this challenge the M-CNTC has assembled a preeminent interdisciplinary team of researchers and educators across the University of Illinois and clinical collaborators in the Midwest to train the next generation of engineers, physical scientists, and biologists to address the challenge of understanding, managing, diagnosing, and treating cancer using the most recent advancements in nanotechnology.
Cellular and Molecular Mechanics and Bionanotechnology (CMMB-IGERT) Training the next generation of leaders who will define the new frontiers of cellular and molecular mechanics and bionanotechnology Critical experiments during the last decade show a fundamental link between the micro- and macro-mechanical environment (i.e., intracellular forces, local shear, gravitational force) and a variety of cell functionalities, their lineage, and phenotype. These findings pose the grand challenge: what is the underlying molecular mechanism that cells employ to transduce mechanical signals to biochemical pathways?
In response to this challenge the CMMB IGERT launched an interdisciplinary research effort with national and international collaborators.
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