The Saif Lab has two research thrusts: mechanics of living cells (biomechanics), and nanoscale materials (nanomechanics). For the former, our studies of cell mechanics are motivated by three primary reasons:
- Understanding mechanotransduction: How cells transduce mechanical stimuli into biochemical processes and vice versa?
- Disease detection and prognosis: Is there a mechanical signature for a disease state in a cell?
- Biological machines: Can cell behavior be tuned by mechanical stimuli such that they self organize into functional units?
Our goals within these primary reasons are to explore questions such as: do memory and learning in animals depend on mechanical forces in neurons? Can cardiac cells synchronize their beating through long-range mechanical forces transmitted through the elastic media? Does the mechanical stiffness of cancer tumors play a role in initiating metastasis, and if so, how? What mechanical cues may lead to the emergence of biological machines from clusters of living cells?
As for the latter research thrust, our goal is to explore and understand the role of small size scale of material samples (such as thin films or nanowires) and their microstructures in determining their thermo-mechanical properties, the interaction between the macroscopic mechanisms of deformation and the interfaces at nanoscale, and the new mechanisms that interfaces may generate (structure-property relation, a fancier way of saying).
The underlying themes that link the two thrusts are the principles of mechanics and the processes that are relevant at a small scale. We are interested in the fundamental mechanisms that determine the processes. We use both experiment and theory to address our questions. In order to carry out exploratory experiments, we often develop our own micro and nano-machines and apparatus (microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS), and study their mechanics as well. A few contributions from our lab are summarized here.
Our Principal Investigator is Taher Saif.
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