IGERT: Training the next generation of researchers in cellular and molecular mechanics and bio-nanotechnology

Grant: 09-65918
Award Amount: $1,250,000
Participating Faculty: L.B. Schook
Start Date: August 1, 2010
End Date: July 31, 2015

Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) is NSF's flagship interdisciplinary training program, educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers by building on the foundations of their disciplinary knowledge with interdisciplinary training. Collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries and requires teamwork provides students with the tools to become leaders in the science and engineering of the future.

This goal of this IGERT award is to create a graduate training program that will produce the next generation of intellectual leaders in Cellular & Molecular Mechanics and Bio-Nanotechnology. This program represents a highly coordinated and interdisciplinary effort to educate Ph.D. students across the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California at Merced, North Carolina Central University, and partner institutions to tackle the important problems in bionanotechnology spanning the molecular-cellular-tissue scale.

How living cells transduce mechanical signals to functionalities at different length scales, from inside cells to their communication with the extra cellular matrix, presents a scientific grand challenge of our times. Recent advancements in micro/nanotechnology, molecular scale imaging, and computational methodologies will catalyze this quantitative biological revolution at a cellular and molecular scale. Students who have been trained at the intersection of these domains have the potential to revolutionize tissue and regenerative engineering, biological energy harvesting, sensing and actuation, cells-as-a-machine, and synthetic biology, to name a few. Unique training efforts in this program include a two-track educational program to educate engineering and biology students to develop depth and breadth in their area of research, new experimental modules and a summer workshop introducing the IGERT trainees to state-of-the-art equipment and laboratory procedures, an exciting iWORLD program with collaborators around the world that will provide IGERT trainees with international research experiences, and a student leader council that participates in the leadership and drives the management of the IGERT.


Froeter, P., Y. Huang, O.V. Cangellaris, W. Huang, E.W. Dent, M.U. Gillette, J.C. Williams, and X. Li. (2014). Toward intelligent synthetic neural circuits: Directing and accelerating neuron cell growth by self-rolled-up silicon nitride microtube array. ACS Nano. 8(11), 11108-11117.

View other achievements of IGERT participants here.