WISE 2019 Faculty Panelists
Allie Obermeyer’s research, which lies at the intersection of chemistry, biology, and engineering, is motivated by the goal to improve human health. The primary focus of her lab is on developing hybrid protein and polymer-based materials for biomedical applications.
Three aspects of proteins make them particularly attractive for use in functional materials: they can (1) possess great strength, (2) function as exquisite catalysts, and/or (3) dynamically assemble and disassemble. However, the exceptional functionality of proteins is frequently matched with an equivalent lack of stability. By combining functional proteins with traditional synthetic polymers, materials with the favorable features of each component can be created. Exploiting the diverse structure and function of native, or unaltered, proteins, Dr. Obermeyer is using a combination of genetic and synthetic modifications to control protein assembly and behavior. This enables her to engineer complementary functionality into novel protein-based materials, which eventually will be used for applications in medicine, biotechnology, and synthetic biology.
Dr. Obermeyer received a BS, magna cum laude, in chemistry from Rice University in 2008 and a PhD in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2013. From 2014 to 2016, she was an Arnold O. Beckman postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Obermeyer has also volunteered in programs designed to engage public school students with science.
Christina Vizcarra, who has taught at Barnard since 2015, investigates how the protein actin is regulated to perform its cellular roles by using biochemical techniques, spectroscopy, and high-resolution microscopy. This research is funded by the NIH National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, as well as the NSF Divisions of Chemistry and Biological Infrastructure.
Dr. Vizcarra conducted her NIH postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA, received her PhD from Caltech, and her B.S. from the University of Kansas.
Katie Reuther's interests lie in the development and translation of early-stage medical technologies and discoveries and is an experienced educator in this area. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Design, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University, with additional appointments as the Director of the Columbia Biomedical Technology Accelerator (BioMedX) Program and the Director of Master’s Studies. The BioMedX program provides funding, education, and support to students and faculty interested in commercializing their biomedical inventions. She has advised and educated numerous student and faculty teams and start-ups in developing and commercializing medical technologies.
Prior to joining Columbia and while pursuing her PhD, Reuther served as a Research Assistant at the McKay Orthopaedic Research Laboratory. Her dissertation research focused on determining fundamental relationships and mechanisms of tendon and ligament injury and repair, with a particular emphasis on tissue mechanics and the shoulder. She continues to apply her research expertise through collaborations with the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Columbia University, with a specific focus on translational orthopaedic clinical research. The goal of her current work is to optimize surgical and non-surgical treatment strategies for shoulder injury.
Dr. Reuther received a BS in Biomedical Engineering (with an emphasis in Mechanical Engineering) from The College of New Jersey and a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania.
Lauren Marbella bridges the gap between material design and characterization to create functional platforms for a wide range of energy-related materials, including batteries, catalysts, and optics. Her work integrates concepts from engineering, chemistry, and biology to generate new materials and monitor these innovations in real-time within devices.
Specifically, Dr. Marbella is interested in developing new approaches to characterize amorphous/disordered phases, interfacial phenomena, and dynamic processes using in situ/operando NMR/MRI. NMR and MRI offer a molecular-level description of the structure and motion in complex systems, such as battery electrodes, flexible electronics, and smart glass. Uniquely, NMR/MRI measurements can be performed as the device is operating, allowing the correlation between atomic-scale processes and macroscopic performance output. These new insights provide the basis to reimagine and achieve new technologies for fields ranging from energy storage to chemical production – for example, the development of safe, high energy density wearables as well as the improvement of selectivity in heterogeneous catalysts.
Dr. Marbella received a BS in biochemistry from Duquesne University in 2009 and a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 2016 under the direction of Prof. Jill Millstone. She was a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow and the Charles and Katharine Darwin Research Fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Clare Grey, FRS, at the University of Cambridge from 2016-2018. In July 2018, she joined the Chemical Engineering faculty at Columbia University.
Lydia Chilton’s area of study is human-computer interaction with a focus on computational design, including viewing the design process from a computational standpoint. Two projects she’s currently working on are constructing visual metaphors for creative ads and using computational tools to write humor and news satire.
Dr. Chilton received her PhD from the University of Washington in 2015. She received her Master’s in Engineering from MIT in 2009 and her SB in 2007, also from MIT. Prior to joining Columbia Engineering in 2017, she was a postdoctoral student at Stanford University.