438654 Merging Electrochemical Devices, Protein Engineering and Tissue Engineering: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Electrode Structures and Stem Cell Culture

Sunday, November 8, 2015
Exhibit Hall 1 (Salt Palace Convention Center)
Julie N. Renner, Proton OnSite, Wallingford, CT

My research interests are derived from my diverse experiences working in multiple fields: protein engineering, tissue engineering, stem cell differentiation and membrane-based electrochemical technology. These fields are growing, for example, the market for stem cells was estimated at $26.3 billion in 2013, and is expected to grow annually by 24% (Transparency Market Research). The market for membrane-based fuel cells is expected to grow at a similar rate.  I want to uniquely combine these fields to create new electrochemical processes and devices, as well as provide fresh approaches to stem cell culture.  Not only will my research create new technology, but it will support the demand for educated professionals to work and innovate in these fast growing markets.

Initially, my group will work in three areas: 1) protein-engineered electrode structures, 2) electrochemically-modulated protein-engineered materials and 3) electrochemical devices for more controlled and automated stem cell culture. These projects will result in increased understanding and structuring of electrodes used in energy applications such as fuel cells or electrolyzers, and will also improve the performance of enzyme-based electrodes enabling implantable fuel cells, efficient chemical generation, or even wastewater treatment technologies. In addition, new insights into stem cell culture and differentiation will be gained by continuous monitoring and control of culture medium components, and unique tools for more effective 3D tissue engineering will be developed.

My past experiences provide a strong foundation for my future research. For my doctoral work at Purdue University, I designed proteins to mimic cartilage tissue and direct human bone marrow-derived stem cells to produce cartilage extracellular matrix.  Notably, my work resulted in materials that had a compressive modulus comparable to natural cartilage. As an industrial postdoctoral researcher at Proton OnSite, a world leader in proton exchange membrane electrolysis, I specialized in conceptualizing, developing and evaluating new and emerging electrochemical technologies. To date, I’ve obtained SBIR funding to develop an electrochemical ammonia generation device and a microbial fuel cell for the remediation of nitrate-contaminated water. I possess a truly unique toolkit of electrochemical device design and evaluation, electrode characterization, protein design, protein manufacturing and characterization, as well as expertise in stem cell differentiation analysis.

In addition to supporting my own independent research program, I will flex the experience gained in my postdoctoral position to encourage strong government-industry-academic collaborations. Also, as a committed mentor supervising over 17 student projects to date, I will continue to encourage creative design, multidisciplinary education, and a collaborative team-oriented environment in my future group and classroom.

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