MIT class journeys to fascinating locations the place mechanical engineering impacts biology | MIT Information


Even for a second-year PhD scholar researching the mechanics of dwelling cells, the affect of bodily forces throughout the world of dwelling issues is a supply of marvel.

“I did undergrad in engineering mechanics, and ever since I began to take a look at cells, the extra I’ve discovered it fascinating to take a look at them as delicate ‘machines,’” says Haiqian Yang. “The cells are ‘good’ for certain, however I imagine they can’t escape bodily legal guidelines. So the place is the restrict? Are there basic governing legal guidelines driving construction formation and multicellular dynamics similar to these fundamental thermodynamic legal guidelines? These thrilling questions inspire me.”

Final fall, Yang took class 2.788 (Mechanical Engineering and Design of Dwelling Programs), which gave him an opportunity to step again and “be taught the lacking items that full my entire image of my subject of research,” he says.

“Not solely did this class educate me all the brand new, thrilling matters occurring on this subject that I didn’t know earlier than,” Yang says, “it additionally satisfied me much more that there are large alternatives the place I can probably make a distinction.”

Understanding the mechanics of biology can take researchers in an enormous number of totally different instructions, and supply college students new to the idea with many alternatives to marvel. Intracellular mechanical forces can affect such processes as most cancers metastasis, neurological pathology, and vascular illness. On the identical time, the construction and mechanics of the cells on a butterfly’s wing or a hen feather can account not just for the creature’s shade and shimmer, however for its survival when uncovered to warmth or moisture. And the geometry of cells that assist renew the human gut — their curvature and relative places — account for a lot of their conduct within the physique. Such examples are innumerable.

The research of such phenomena and their modeling may result in technological options in fields from well being care to constructing supplies.

Ming Guo, the Class ’54 Profession Growth Professor and affiliate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, co-teaches 2.788 with Mathias Kolle, the Rockwell Profession Growth Professor and affiliate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. Guo’s instructional background is especially in physics and engineering, however whereas finding out for his PhD at Harvard College, he began taking cell biology and biophysics programs. Equally, Kolle says, “I’m a physicist by undergraduate and graduate coaching, turned supplies scientist, mechanical engineer, and biology fanatic by expertise, publicity, and decisions made out of curiosity.”

In 2017, the 2 professors began to plan the course.

“We had this concept,” says Guo, “that there isn’t any course instructing the engineering facets of organic programs, whereas this subject has been in a short time creating. So there was an pressing want to show the most recent concepts and understanding to college students who may be on this broad matter.”

On the identical time, analysis out of the Nationwide Science Basis Middle of Rising Habits of Built-in Mobile Programs, headed by Roger Kamm, Cecil and Ida Inexperienced Distinguished Professor of Organic and Mechanical Engineering, had illustrated that there was a necessity for such a category.

“The concept was that a number of universities would agree to every educate a course, make it out there to the opposite establishments on-line, and that we’d use these programs as a means of creating and disseminating pedagogical materials on multicellular engineered dwelling programs,” Kamm says. “We had some success with that mannequin, nevertheless it wasn’t till Ming and Mathias got here on the scene that issues actually began to gel. The course they developed, with some encouragement from me, actually pulled collectively all of the totally different facets of our heart analysis, and packaged it right into a course that they — with some assist from my heart employees — may provide throughout three establishments. The course has been, for my part, an enormous success, and the category numbers have grown every year.”

“Roger Kamm was a fervent supporter of our academic efforts proper from the beginning,” says Kolle. “He was glad to behave as a sounding board after we conceived the category and likewise is actively concerned by setting the larger framing of the sector and analysis at MIT in his visitor lecture, which he provides at the start of our class each time since we first began it in 2018.”

For college kids, the Mechanical Engineering and Design of Dwelling Programs class presents untapped worlds to find, as a result of relative newness of the cross-disciplinary subject.

“Ming and Mathias would spotlight ideas or phenomena that basically aren’t all that properly understood — the purpose being that should you’re curious, that is one thing you may take into consideration or take a look at,” says Gunnar Thompson, a second-year PhD scholar on the College of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who took the category remotely. “Clearly, I wasn’t excited by each matter, however this enthusiasm for what’s new or undiscovered was inspiring to me.”

Thompson, whose analysis entails utilizing biomaterials often known as hydrogels to review the affect of bodily and chemical elements on blood stem cells, represented one among two universities aside from MIT that take part. College students from Georgia Tech additionally take the category.

Julie Shen, who’s ending her grasp’s diploma in mechanical engineering at MIT and heading right into a PhD, says the category allowed her to view dwelling creatures from a brand new perspective. Shen does analysis on medical gadgets for the cardiovascular system, however her work has by no means been in a biology lab. In 2.788, she ran experiments with jellyfish.

“I didn’t assume I’d get to do this in my life,” she says. “The category actually made me interested in others matters in our subject. There are such a lot of cool issues occurring between mechanical engineering and biology, and the 2 professors had been actually obsessed with each matter they had been instructing.”

The doable purposes of the insights gleaned from finding out the mechanical engineering forces at work in dwelling programs are infinite. Guo, referring to the potential for “utilizing the engineering rules we be taught from biology to construct new organic machines to assist mankind, bettering our life high quality or medical experiences,” factors to his favourite discovery. It entails seeing how cells regulate their bodily properties throughout tumor progress and invasion, such because the remark that softer, extra fluid-swollen cells usually tend to type “invasive suggestions” that break free to unfold elsewhere.

“This has been my favourite currently, because it highlights the extraordinarily complicated spatial and temporal interactions and rules of particular person cells in a creating tissue, but reveals the straightforward and fairly bodily rules which have a robust affect on organic growth,” Guo says. “This offers us hope to manage organic behaviors sooner or later.”

Kolle, who factors out that “biology is admittedly good at controlling materials constructions,” says that within the organic optical supplies he research, “the management of fabric construction is unparalleled by human materials synthesis approaches.” Basically, he sees the engineering of tissues for the human physique as a “massive overarching problem — truly, in all probability better-said, a myriad of various challenges.” Such tissues may “both encourage our physique to work properly the place it wants that encouragement or to offer replacements for failing elements.”

“There may be nonetheless a lot that we don’t know in regards to the complexity of the human physique and life normally and the way all of the totally different elements play collectively after they work properly, or don’t after they fail not directly or the opposite.”

Requested about his favourite discovery, Kolle lists the analysis initiatives his college students are pursuing — Ben Miller’s color-dynamic supplies, Anthony McDougal’s insights into butterfly scale formations, the work that each Sara Nagelberg and Hannah Feldstein have achieved on fluid micro lenses, and Joseph Sandt’s implementation of colorimetric bandage strain sensors.

“My very personal favourite discovery at MIT is that the perfect issues popping out of my lab are rising within the minds of my college students,” Kolle says.

In line with everybody concerned, the joy and potential of such analysis comes by means of loud and powerful in 2.788.   

“The category undoubtedly helped me to raised perceive the present state of organic mechanics analysis,” says mechanical engineering senior Joseph Bonavia, “and helped me to understand it extra.”



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