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Birck Faculty Fellows


Abel Chuang

Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering Technology

Project Title: Study of Material, Cell, and System Integration of Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells, Co-Sponsored with Energy Center


Dr. Chuang specializes in material and diagnostic study of Proton Exchange Member (PEM) Fuel Cells. Prior to joining Purdue University, he spent more than 8 years developing fuel cell technology for automotive application both in the industry and university. At Purdue, he will continue to establish his core expertise in PEM fuel cell research for broader applications including automotive, residential, and portable energy solutions. Fuel cell is a highly interdisciplinary research area and requires experts in different fields to integrate their learning in order to deliver an optimized energy system. This activity fits well with the mission of Discovery Park (DP), which is to lead Purdue’s large-scale interdisciplinary research efforts. His project will first focus on the study of cell components, especially electrode, in a fuel cell with the support of Birck Nanotechnology Center and Energy Center. His expectation as a DP research fellow is to establish collaborations with Purdue experts in areas like electro-catalysis, nanostructure, polymer science, heat transfer, fluid flow, mechanics, hydrogen generation and storage, power conditioning, etc. His long-term goal is to establish a research program in exploring sustainable energy solutions.

Bumsoo Han

Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Project Title: Engineering of In-vitro 3D Vascularized Tumors by Integrative Tissue Systems Biology Approach


This proposal aims to establish collaborative networks to engineer (i.e., fabricate, measure, manipulate, and predict) in vitro three-dimensional (3D) vascularized tumors by integrative tissue systems biology approach. Cancer research has been heavily relying on conventional in vitro cell cultures and in vivo animal models. These models are important for the discovery and development of new drugs and medical therapies. However, these conventional models do not provide either the complexity of in vivo tumor microenvironment, or the detailed information necessary to establish a mechanistic understanding on drug actions and therapeutic efficacy.

Thus, these shortcomings have led to a substantial interest in the development of in vitro model systems that can recapitulate the complexities of 3D vascularized tumor microenvrionment and simultaneously allow systematic study on drug actions and therapeutic efficacy. Dr. Han's Laboratory recently develops a prototype of in vitro 3D vascularized tumor, and is currently performing research to demonstrate its feasibility to systematically characterize nano- carrier for targeted drug delivery. During this fellowship, he aims to substantially expand his model by establishing collaborative networks at Discovery Park overarching nanotechnology, physiology, oncology and computational modeling. This innovative, in vitro vascularized tissue-based platform can bring transformative change in (i) research of physiologic and pathologic processes, (ii) clinical translation of drugs and therapies, (iii) cellular therapies, and (iv) engineering personalized medicine and therapies.

Prof. Rodolfo Pinal

Associate Professor, Industrial and Physical Pharmacy

Project Title: 3D Integrated Pharmaceuticals - Large Area Web Nanomanufacturing methods and preliminary testing

Co-Sponsored with Bindley Bioscience Center


3D Integrated Pharmaceuticals (3D IP), a platform technology for manufacturing the next generation of pharmaceutical dosage forms. 3D IP “pills” are assembled from prefabricated working parts, following a pre established blueprint design. Dr. Pinal’s project bridges the design of tailor made pharmaceutical functionality, just-in-time manufacturing, and advanced film based (large area web) and roll-to-roll nanomanufacuring methods. The goal is the development of, and manufacturing methods for, multi-functional integrated bio/pharmaceutical delivery systems with exceptional flexibility for promoting patience compliance and customizing final product performance.

Arvind Raman

Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Project Title: Roll-to-roll manufacturing of soft nanocomposite materials and devices with integrated sensors


More than 12 years of federal investment through the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) have created a wealth of fundamental discovery and innovation in nanoscience. Over the past few years the emphasis of the NNI has shifted to the scalable, high-yield manufacture of nanomaterials, nanodevices, and nano-composites. At the same time the Materials Genome Initiative of the federal government also aims to accelerate the discovery, manufacture, and deployment of advanced materials systems for clean energy, national security and human welfare. Both these trends call for a focus on the scalable manufacture of complex, multi-functional materials and devices with high throughput, precision and yield for a host of applications. Prof. Raman’s group will collaborate with colleagues from engineering, science, agriculture and pharmacy to develop roll-to-roll (R2R) systems for high-throughput manufacture of nanomaterials and investigate the fundamental scientific challenges and engineering roadbloacks in scaling up manufacturing throughput. The effort will focus on the vacuum R2R production of carbon nanomaterials such as graphene and graphene nanopetals for applications in electronics, energy storage and sensing, as well as soft nanocomposites. Soft nanocomposites can consist of a variety of multi-functional zero-, one-, or two dimensional nanomaterials – nanotubes, nanowires, graphene flakes, magnetic nanoparticles, quantum dots that are dispersed in a soft phase – a soft polymer or gel, often forming a percolating network. Such complex, soft nanocomposites find wide applications in electrodes and electrolytes in Li-ion batteries or as biosensors. An emerging application of such materials is the development of multi-layer thin polymer/soft gel films with dispersed nanoparticles of drugs can revolutionize drug delivery and biomedical devices with “smart” layers that adapt porosity or activity according to local chemical conditions thus leading to customized and precise dosage control.

Sherry Voytik-Harbin

Associate Professor, Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering

Project Title: Integrative Tissue Systems Biology and Engineering: Design and Prototyping of Engineered Vascularized Tissue Systems

Co-Sponsored with Bindley Bioscience Center


Dr. Voytik-Harbin’s project focuses on design and development of three-dimensional (3D) tissue systems that are human-cell based and recapitulate the complexities of native tissues and organs in-vitro. Such innovative, in-vitro human-tissue systems provide significant translational potential in the areas of regenerative medicine, drug development and targeting, as well as drug/chemical testing. Dr. Voytik-Harbin will work to expand existing collaborative research efforts targeting the design, prototyping, and validation of in-vitro vascularized tissue systems that support functional perfusion. In addition, she will work with others to grow and energize a broader community of multidisciplinary faculty, staff, and students around the emerging area of “Integrative Tissue Systems Biology and Engineering”. Collectively, this broader community will work collaboratively to design and engineer in-vitro human tissue systems that accommodate high throughput, multiparametric and quantitative analyses of cell responses through the integration of 1) in-vitro 3D tissue/organ system design (e.g., tissue-on-a-chip, tissue-scale), 2) novel imaging and biosensor approaches for multi-scale, spatiotemporal quantification of interfacial phenomena between cells and their microenvironment, 3) computational modeling of dynamic, hierarchical tissue interactions for design optimization, scale-up, and outcome prediction, and 4) in-vitro 3D model-based design of experiments to promote high experimental efficiency at a relatively low cost (e.g., cancer drug screening). Such efforts targeting the development of in-vitro human-tissue systems are consistent with significant need and high interest areas identified by a number of federal agencies as well as pharmaceutical and medical device industries. Furthermore, these efforts will spark research, technology, and education activities relevant to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) initiative.

Alexander Wei

Professor, Chemistry

Project Title: Roll-to-Roll Manufacturing with Designer Soft Materials


As a Discovery Park Fellow, Prof. Wei seeks develop a scalable process for the roll-to-roll (R2R) manufacturing of functional thin films and membranes comprised of functional nanomaterials and polymers, with various applications in supercapacitors, fuel cells, drug delivery, and low-cost chemical sensors. Precise surface modification will be integral to the successful amalgamation of composite membranes, using film processing methods such as microgravure lamination, ambient spray deposition, and inkjet printing. Current projects include (i) edge-directed metallization of graphene nano-petals grown on carbon cloth, (ii) Nafion-like membranes using modified cellulose nanocrystals, and (iii) disposable "smart wrappers" for detecting spoilage in perishables, using substrates with a low-carbon footprint.

Babak Ziaie

Professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Project Title: Sensors and Actuators for Smart Pharmaceutical Thin Films


As part of my Birck Research Fellowship for the academic year starting in Fall 2013, I will be involved in the advanced nano-manufacturing initiative. In particular, I will be working with Prof. Rodolfo Pinal of Department of Industrial and Physical Pharmacy in developing the seed technologies needed for next generation advanced smart pharmaceutical manufacturing. This brings together and establishes a much needed collaboration between the Birck nanotechnology Center and College of Pharmacy that can in the longer term attract major funding to the Discovery Park and Purdue. Part of my research in recent years has been geared towards development of flexible bioelectronics for a variety of sensing and wireless microsystem applications, Figure 1. The transition of some of the technologies in my lab such as paper-based sensing and electronics to pharmaceutical manufacturing will open up tremendous possibilities to add intelligence to the way the drugs are manufactured and administered. I will work closely with Prof. Pinal’s group to demonstrate proof of concept integration of wireless sensing (e.g., pH, degradation rate, etc) with thin film pharmaceutical processes currently under development in his lab. This will be the first stepping stone that will bring my lab closer to the drug manufacturing research efforts. Our long term goal is to scale up and sophisticate such processes in accordance with Birck Nanotechnology Center leadership vision of creating an advanced nano-manufacturing center.