The first weeks of human embryo development are perhaps the most remarkable example of tissue remodeling in all of biology. During this time, a complex network of biochemical signaling gradients transforms embryonic tissue layers into fetal organs, in a process called organogenesis. The molecular mechanisms driving early human organogenesis remain poorly understood. This knowledge gap is due in part to crucial differences between early human and mouse embryos and due also to technical and ethical limitations in studying human organogenesis. Gaining a detailed understanding of the coupling between signaling gradients, cell fates, and morphogenesis in human organ development will enable a rationally designed program of reproducible differentiation of human tissues, which is a crucial step in advancing regenerative and personalized medicine. This is precisely the central mission of the Simunovic lab: we build quantitative in vitro assays that differentiate human pluripotent stem cells into highly organized models of human organs, called organoids. We use our quantitative platform to dissect the molecular mechanisms that drive the specialization of early human embryonic cells. We are looking for an undergraduate student with experience in mammalian cell culture that will combine chemical and tissue engineering with stem cell biology so to develop an in vitro platform for studying the first fate choices embryonic cells make at the onset of organogenesis. The student will complement lab work with the analysis of complex multidimensional data generated by single cell transcriptomics to dissect the precise gene regulatory networks in stem cell specialization. Given the complexity and high reward nature of the project, the student will have the opportunity to continue working in the lab after the summer. We are looking for students majoring in chemical or biomedical engineering with a quantitative background.
Lab: The Laboratory of Synthetic Human Organogenesis
Direct Supervisor: Mijo Simunovic
Position Dates: 5/1/2021 - 9/1/2021
Hours per Week: 35
Qualifications: Mammalian cell culture, chemical engineering of the cell (polymer chemistry, basis of genetic engineering)
Eligibility: Junior, Senior; SEAS only