Program details:

  • Ten weeks
  • Stipend $6,000
  • Travel, housing, meals provided

Application deadline:
February 5 - March 4
(offers made on a rolling basis during this window).

Program dates:
May 30 - Aug 5



Research Experiences for Undergraduates
Summer 2022

Vanderbilt University
Physics & Astronomy

Research Projects: Biological Physics

Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research
(Prof. John Wikswo)
Students will work in the development and application of micro- and nano-scale devices for instrumenting and controlling single biological cells and small cell populations. The cellular instrumentation project is working to develop and apply a new class of microscale devices that allow simultaneous recording of multiple signatures of a variety of cellular metabolic and signaling processes with sufficient bandwidth that will eventually be used to achieve stable, real-time, closed-loop external control of a single living cell. Such instrumented and controlled cells would help us answer the virtually innumerable sets of questions that will be raised by the explosion of genomic and proteomic information, and address issues as varied as using cells to identify and discriminate chemical and biological warfare agents by metabolic phenotype, the use of BioMEMS (BioMicroElectroMechanical Systems) devices to study molecular signaling associated with chemotaxis, cellular motility, angiogenesis, and metastasis; and the nature of signaling and metabolic activity during the immune response; and the associated how mechanical stimulation during cell culture alters cell morphology and physiology. Already in place are student-taught workshops in microfabrication and development of cellular instrumentation. These will be made available to the REU students enabling them to work at nano-scales that are not commonly available for hands on work by undergraduates.

Probing the Physical Forces and Signals that Drive Morphogenesis and Wound Healing
(Prof. Shane Hutson)

The forms of cells, organs and tissues are shaped and maintained by the physical forces and signals transmitted between cells – a process known as morphogenesis. Students will investigate these forces and signals during embryonic development and wound healing. Students will have the opportunity to operate our custom laser-microsurgery workstations, which combine real-time 3D imaging using confocal microscopes with microsurgical capabilities using pulsed Nd:YAG lasers. Projects include both experimental and computational approaches: investigating the responses of cells and tissues to laser-induced wounds; quantitatively analyzing the cellular mechanics of wound healing; testing hypotheses about the underlying forces of morphogenesis using microsurgery; creating image-processing routines for feature extraction from 3D image sequences; and modeling the dynamics of cells and tissues using finite element routines. Prior knowledge of biology is not required, but projects will embed physics REU students in a collaborative and interdisciplinary environment where they will learn to effectively communicate within a team of scientists who have backgrounds ranging from physics to cell biology to biomedical engineering. The goal is for each student to see what interdisciplinary research is all about.




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