BioDate 2022: 9 interdisciplinary MSc projects supported with 2,5k

In May 2022, Delft Bioengineering Institute organized the fourth edition of BioDate: the ‘speed date’ event where BEI PIs can meet and explore possibilities for collaboration. This year, the participating PIs have generated nine new interdisciplinary MSc projects! Once the PIs have recruited the right student for their project, BEI transfers the grant money of €2500.

>> Engineering and imaging the neuronal growth cone

Situated on the tips of dendrites and axons of nerve cells, neuronal growth cones are the most important cytoskeletal structure involved when nerve cells probe their surroundings to target other cells. In this project, Angelo Accardo (3mE/PME), Carlas Smith (3mE/DCSC) and Daan Brinks (TNW/ImPhys) join forces to employ two-photon polymerization and super-resolution microscopy to disclose the evolution of the neuronal growth cone in a tridimensional spatial configuration. Under their supervision, a student, who has ideally followed the course Microfabrication for Cell Biology and Tissue Engineering at the 3mE faculty, will pave the way for the discovery of new insights in the field of neuromechanobiology.

Project: Engineering and imaging the neuronal growth cone
Supervisors: Angelo Accardo (3mE/PME), Carlas Smith (3mE/DCSC) and Daan Brinks (TNW/ImPhys)
Student: to be recruited

>> Safe on-demand drug-delivery using biodegradable magnetocaloric particles

On-demand drug-delivery systems carry medication to a targeted site, upon which the active components are released. These systems allow treatments to be better adapted to the specific needs of the patient, with greater localization and efficacy and fewer toxic side effects. Alina Rwei’s (TNW/ChemE) group is currently working on the development of systems utilizing gold nanoparticles with a polymer coating loaded with drugs. Using gold as externally-triggered temperature source for the release could lead to problems involving uncontrolled temperature increase. Therefore, in this project, a student with a background in chemical engineering, bioengineering or material sciences, will investigate whether magnetocoloric nanoparticles, currently investigated in a biodegradable composite setting by Clementine Boutry (EWI/ME) and Ekkes Brück (TNW/RST), can be a promising alternative.

Project: Biodegradable magnetocaloric particles as a platform for safe on-demand drug-delivery
Supervisors: Clementine Boutry (EWI/ME), Alina Rwei (TNW/ChemE) and Ekkes Brück (TNW/RST)
Student: to be recruited

>> Magnetic soft auxetic actuators for biomedical applications

The development of new smart wirelessly-controlled soft actuators is a key element in many biomedical applications, in particular to replace permanently defective joints or in the context of temporary rehabilitation support after an accident or surgery. The groups of Clementine Boutry (EWI/ME) and Sepideh Ghodrat (IO/SDE) have a common vision in the development of soft actuators controlled by a magnetic field, consisting of a polymeric matrix combined with magnetic-responsive particles. Boutry focuses on biodegradable materials for short term applications, while Ghodrat is exploring biocompatible materials for longer term actuation. In this project, two master students will work in parallel on the fabrication of 2D and 3D scaffolds with auxetic design, using the two different recipes and approaches currently being developed in Ghodrat and Boutry’s groups.

Project: Magnetic soft auxetic actuators for biomedical applications
Supervisors: Clementine Boutry (EWI/ME) and Sepideh Ghodrat (IO/SDE)
Students: to be recruited

>> Information-theoretical analysis of neuronal activity

In this project, traces of neuronal activity of a system of connected neurons in culture will be analysed in comparison to mouse cortex. The aim of the project is to identify information-theoretical or statistical quantifiers that could serve as indicators for different experimental conditions. The project falls in the framework of a long term effort in the Brinkslab (Daan Brinks, TNW/ImPhys) to quantifiably distinguish between voltage imaging data from different sources, for instance samples from different patients or healthy versus diseased samples. It links excellently with the interest of the Bauer Lab (Marianne Bauer, TNW/BN) to investigate efficient signal processing and precision in natural versus artificial systems.

Project: Information-theoretical analysis of neuronal activity
Supervisors: Marianne Bauer (TNW/BN) and Daan Brinks (TNW/ImPhys)
Student: to be recruited

>> Improving applicability of biocompatible polymers

PLA and PLC are important polymers that can be produced at industrial scale, and have great potential for biomedical applications. Their behaviour and degradation in the body and in nature are well studied, but the materials still lack optimal mechanical properties. To address that, Yasmine Mosleh (CiTG/ES) and Baris Kumru (LR/ASM) will join forces and supervise a MSc student who will investigate if graphitic carbon nitrite nanosheets can be used to reinforce the polymers. Additionally, they will try to find out if the photo-activity of so-formed composites, that would entail attractive features such as self-cleaning surfaces, could be employed in biomedical applications.

Project: Biocompatible photo-active photo-luminescent polymer composites
Supervisors: Yasmine Mosleh (CiTG/ES) and Baris Kumru (LR/ASM)
Student: to be recruited

>> Is iron supplementation a friend or foe to human gut bacteria?

The human microbiome plays an important role in human health. There are indications that an excess of iron as provided through supplements may be detrimental to the balance between favourable and pathogenic gut bacteria, but we don’t yet know how accessible the various forms of iron are for bacteria. Therefore, in this project, Peter-Leon Hagedoorn (TNW/BT) and Robin de Kruijff (TNW/RST) will aim to obtain a better understanding of the effect of different types of iron supplementation at a fundamental level. They will supervise a student with a background in Chemical Engineering or Life Science and Technology, who will become familiar with radiochemistry and chemical synthesis in the radiochemical laboratories, and perform irradiations of iron compounds in the nuclear reactor. Furthermore, the student will learn to cultivate bacteria, isolate proteins, perform biochemical analyses and metalloproteomic experiments.

Project: Is Fe supplementation a friend or foe to human gut bacteria?
Supervisors: Peter-Leon Hagedoorn (TNW/BT) and Robin de Kruijff (TNW/RST)
Student: to be recruited

>> Bioengineering a novel treatment to create climate resilient soil

Demonstrated by dramatic events such as the landslide in Blessem after the floods of July 2021, resilience of geo-structures built on weak soils has become a major concern all around the globe. In nature, microorganisms have naturally been cementing soils for millions of years, turning initially weak soils into rocks. In this project, Anne-Catherine Dieudonné (CiTG/GE) and Henk Jonkers (CiTG/3M&D) will supervise Applied Earth Sciences MSc student Rocco Wennubst Pedrini who will develop a novel two-phase soil treatment, with the ambition of strengthening heterogeneous soil masses. His goal is to contribute to the development of a novel, and potentially game-changing, eco-responsible stabilisation method for large and heterogeneous soil masses.

Project: Soils 2.0: a novel eco-conscious soil stabilisation method for heterogeneous soil masses
Supervisors: Anne-Catherine Dieudonné (CiTG/GE) and Henk Jonkers (CiTG/3M&D)
Student: Rocco Wennubst Pedrini

>> Gas-phase dynamics in bubble columns: comparing broth and water

Industrial bioprocesses play a central role in materials production in a carbon-neutral economy, but scale-up and maximation of resource efficiency are challenging. Bioreactor simulations are important in assessing scale-up effects and large scale process optimization. However, the models employed in most simulation approaches are developed using data for air-water systems, while fermentation broth is a complex mixture of many components, and information about the hydrodynamics of bioreactors containing real broth is lacking. In this project, a MSc student with a background in Life Science and Technology or Chemical Engineering will try to answer the question: How does broth composition impact gas distribution and gas plume dynamics in bioreactors? BEI PIs Cees Haringa (TNW/BT) and Luis Portela (TNW/ChemE) will be his or her supervisors, while Rik Volger (TNW/BT) will help out the student on a daily basis.

Project: An experimental study on the gas-phase dynamics in bubble columns: a comparison between broth and water
Supervisors: Cees Haringa (TNW/BT), Luis Portela (TNW/ChemE) and Rik Volger (TNW/BT)
Student: to be recruited

>> Acoustic platform for stimulating and characterizing living cells

Physical manipulation of living cells and their environment has attracted great interest in life sciences, and studies in this area require in vitro models for assessment and manipulation of cells. Tomás Manzaneque (EWI/ME) works on acoustic and resonant devices for sensing physical properties of materials and living matter; Alina Rwei (TNW/ChemE) specializes in drug delivery systems and their interactions with cells. The main goal of their shared project is to develop an acoustic platform to demonstrate and optimize cell culturing, using suspended piezoelectric films.  

Project: Acoustic platform for stimulating and characterizing living cells
Supervisors: Tomás Manzaneque (EWI/ME) and Alina Rwei (TNW/ChemE)
Student: to be recruited