School of Engineering
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Hong Seh and Vivian W. M. Lim Professor in the School of Engineering and Professor, by courtesy, of Neurobiology and of Bioengineering
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsWe conduct neuroscience, neuroengineering and translational research to better understand how the brain controls movement, and to design medical systems to assist people with paralysis. These medical systems are referred to as brain-machine interfaces (BMIs), brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) and intra-cortical neural prostheses. We conduct this research as part of our Neural Prosthetic Systems Lab (NPSL) and our Neural Prosthetics Translational Lab (NPTL).
BioProfessor Smolke's research program focuses on developing modular genetic platforms for programming information processing and control functions in living systems, resulting in transformative technologies for engineering, manipulating, and probing biological systems. She has pioneered the design and application of a broad class of RNA molecules, called RNA devices, that process and transmit user-specified input signals to targeted protein outputs, thereby linking molecular computation to gene expression. This technology has been extended to efficiently construct multi-input devices exhibiting various higher-order information processing functions, demonstrating combinatorial assembly of many information processing, transduction, and control devices from a smaller number of components. Her laboratory is applying these technologies to addressing key challenges in cellular therapeutics, targeted molecular therapies, and green biosynthesis strategies.
Hyongsok Tom Soh
Professor of Radiology (Early Detection), of Electrical Engineering and, by courtesy, of Chemical Engineering and of Bioengineering
BioDr. Soh received his B.S. with a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science with Distinction from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. From 1999 to 2003, Dr. Soh served as the technical manager of MEMS Device Research Group at Bell Laboratories and Agere Systems. He was a faculty member at UCSB before joining Stanford in 2015. His current research interests are in analytical biotechnology, especially in high-throughput screening, directed evolution, and integrated biosensors.
James H. Clark Professor in the School of Engineering and Professor of Chemical Engineering and of Bioengineering
BioUsing and Understanding Cell-Free Biology
Swartz Lab General Research Focus:
The current and projected research in the Swartz lab balances basic research in microbial metabolism, protein expression, and protein folding with a strong emphasis on compelling applications. The power and versatility of cell-free methods coupled with careful evaluation and engineering of these new systems enables a whole new range of applications and scientific investigation. Fundamental research on: the mechanisms and kinetics of ribosomal function, fundamental bioenergetics, basic mechanisms of protein folding, functional genomics, and metabolic pathway analysis is motivated by a variety of near- and medium term applications spanning medicine, energy, and environmental needs.
Swartz Lab Application Focus:
In the medical area , current research addresses the need for patient-specific vaccines to treat cancer. Particularly for lymphomas, there is a strong need to be able to make a new cancer vaccine for each patient. Current technologies are not practical for this demanding task, but cell-free approaches are rapid and inexpensive. We have already demonstrated feasibility in mouse tumor challenge studies and are now expanding the range of applications and working to improve the relevant technologies. Experience with these vaccines has also suggested a new and exciting format for making inexpensive and very potent vaccines for general use.
To address pressing needs for a new and cleaner energy source, we are working towards an organism that can efficiently capture solar energy and convert it into hydrogen. The first task is to develop an oxygen tolerant hydrogenase using cell-free technology to express libraries of mutated enzymes that can be rapidly screened for improved function. Even though these are very complex enzymes, we have produced active hydrogenases with our cell-free methods. We are now perfecting the screening methods for rapid and accurate identification of improved enzymes. After these new enzymes are identified, the project will progress toward metabolic engineering and bioreactor design research to achieve the scales and economies required.
To address environmental needs, we are developing an improved water filters using an amazing membrane protein, Aquaporin Z. It has the ability to reject all other chemicals and ions except water. We have efficiently expressed the protein into lipid bilayer vesicles and are now working to cast these membranes on porous supports to complete the development of a new and powerful water purification technology. The same lessons will be applied toward the development of a new class of biosensors that brings high sensitivity and selectivity.