Professor Wang Receives the NIH Trailblazer Award

By Kyra Arena, Written Communications Assistant 

photo of MSE Assistant Professor Xueju "Sophie" Wang

MSE Assistant Professor Xueju “Sophie” Wang

The National Institute of Health (NIH) awarded Assistant Professor Xueju (Sophie) Wang a total of $643,591 for her proposal entitled “Multifunctional 3D Bioelectric and Microfluid Hybrid Systems for Online Monitoring, Regulation, and Vascularization of Organoids.” The award is granted to early-stage investigators who wish to pursue research programs of high interest to the NIH NIBIB at the interface of the life sciences with engineering and the physical sciences. This 3-year project will be in collaboration with the Co-Investigators of Dr. Yi Zhang (BME at UConn) and Dr. Yan Li (Florida State University).

Through this award, Wang will develop a soft, multifunctional electronic/microfluidic hybrid network in three-dimensional (3D) geometries, for simultaneous sensing, stimulation and well-controlled delivery of molecules into deep tissues. “Organoids have emerged as a promising platform for modeling tissue development and disease, personalized medicine development, drug screening and drug toxicity investigations,” says Wang. Despite their great potential, current organoids suffer from drawbacks including immature structure and functionality, limited heterogeneity and limited accessible readouts for organoid evaluation. This is partly limited by existing technologies; for example, conventional rigid, planar, and 2D electrodes for modulation and sensing cannot achieve detailed investigations of 3D biosystems. To address those challenges, Wang’s team will develop a hybrid 3D electronic/microfluidic system that can probe the 3D volumetric tissue: “If successful, it will greatly improve the monitoring, regulation and vasculature capabilities of organoids, and therefore their potential in modeling tissue and personalized medicine development, drug screening and many others.” 

In 2016 Wang received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. After completing her post-doctoral research at Northwestern University, she served at the University of Missouri, Columbia, as an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. She joined UConn MSE in 2020.  

Wang’s research has been recognized through numerous awards including the ASME Orr Early Career Award, the ASME Haythornwaite Foundation Research Initiation Award, the Gary L. Cloud Scholarship Award from the Society of Experimental Mechanics, the PMSE Yong Investigator Award and the NSF Faculty Early Development Program (CAREER) Award.

“I feel very excited about winning this award, not only because it is a recognition of my research achievements as a young investigator, but more importantly, it is a research topic that I have been interested in studying for years,” says Wang. “Through this award, I hope to address the limitations of current organoids and create organoids with mature structural and functional complexity.”

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