Microfluidic inertial focusing is a technology used to passively manipulate objects as small as mammalian cells. Until recently, this technology could not be used for anything smaller than 10 microns, or one-tenth the thickness of human hair.
This is incredibly small, but graduate biomedical engineering student Lei Wang, working with her advisor, Professor David Dandy, has found a way to study even smaller-scale phenomena at the submicron level. The work is part of an NSF-funded project.
Wang’s work on the project earned her a Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Extended Abstract/Design and Research Award. The awards are designed to provide encouragement and recognition for students’ academic achievements. The BMES Awards Committee selects up to five graduate students nationwide on the basis of scientific merit, originality and quality of written presentation. The awards were presented at the BMES Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Oct. 5-8.
The application for which Wang is leveraging microfluidic inertial focusing is harvesting cyanobacteria, a type of microalgae. She is the first to build a platform that can manipulate, concentrate and separate a suspension of particles this small.
Going forward, she will use the technique for even smaller bioparticles, and apply the technology to research themes as diverse as developmental biology, cancer detection, infectious disease diagnosis and biofuel production.
A future in microfluidics
Through her research, Wang hopes the microfluidic platform will serve as a viable, low-cost alternative for exploring micron- and submicron-sized cells. She is set to graduate from CSU in 2017, and is looking to continue a microfluidics research program in the future.
“My dream is to be a professor, and I want to do research to improve the quality of human life,” Wang said. “I am passionate about understanding how the human body works, and want to be able to utilize both this understanding and biomedical technology to help people with afflictions they are experiencing.”