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SQI: Simpson Querry Institute

2020 News

New microscopy technique offers first look at previously hidden processes

December 23, 2020

SQI member Nathan Gianneschi co-led the development of a new microscopy method that allows scientists to see the building blocks of “smart” materials being formed through dispersion polymerization, a common process used to make medicines, cosmetics, latex and other items, often on an industrial scale.

“Our method allows us to visualize this class of polymerization in real time, at the nanoscale, which has never been done before,” Gianneschi said. “We now have the ability to see the reaction taking place, see these nanostructures being formed, and learn how to take advantage of the incredible things they can do.”

Mike Jewett portrait

Jewett named to National Academy of Inventors

December 15, 2020
SQI faculty member Michael Jewett has been named to the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the highest professional distinction awarded solely to academic inventors. The program recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a “spirit of innovation” by creating or facilitating inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and social welfare.
Xiaolei Liu

Meet the Researchers: Xiaolei Liu

December 9, 2020
Xiaolei Liu first began working with SQI faculty member Guillermo Oliver as a postdoctoral fellow in 2014 and is currently a Research Assistant Professor in his laboratory. In this interview, Liu describes her research into how the lymphatic system is implicated in heart disease and development, and the path that led her to this emerging field of study.

New X-ray technique reveals clues about ancient mummy

November 25, 2020

SQI faculty member Stuart Stock and colleagues used advanced imaging technology to noninvasively investigate the insides of a 1,900-year-old mummy, revealing clues about its social status. A combination of computed tomography and X-ray diffraction displayed objects inside of the wrappings, including what the researchers believe is a scarab beetle buried with the mummy to symbolize rebirth.

"The X-rays give off what is essentially a fingerprint that is characteristic of the material," Stock told CNN.

Mike Jewett headshot

Jewett named AAAS fellow for contributions to engineering

November 24, 2020
SQI faculty member Michael Jewett has been selected as a 2020 fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the largest general scientific society in the world. According to the AAAS, Jewett was recognized for “distinguished contributions to the field of engineering, particularly using synthetic biology and cell-free systems to enable new applications in biomanufacturing, diagnostics, and education.”
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Hersam, Rogers recognized as highly cited researchers

November 19, 2020
SQI faculty members Mark Hersam and John Rogers were named to the 2020 Highly Cited Researchers list compiled by Clarivate Analytics. The honor recognizes researchers who have produced multiple papers over the past decade ranking in the top 1 percent of citations by field and publication year.

Medical device using Northwestern-invented biomaterial receives FDA clearance

October 21, 2020

An innovative orthopedic medical device fabricated from a biomaterial pioneered in the laboratory of SQI member Guillermo Ameer has received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in surgeries to attach soft tissue grafts to bone.

The biomaterial is the first thermoset biodegradable synthetic polymer ever approved for use in an implantable medical device. Its unique chemical and mechanical properties enable cutting-edge implant designs that protect the soft tissue graft during insertion and optimize graft fixation to bone.

‘Like a fishing net,’ nanonet collapses to trap drug molecules

October 8, 2020

A research team led by SQI faculty member Evan Scott has discovered a new, rapid method for fabricating nanoparticles from a simple, self-assembling polymer. The novel method — which involves using a nanoscale polymer net to trap drug molecules — presents new possibilities for diverse applications, including water purification, diagnostics and rapidly generating vaccine formulations, which typically require many different types of molecules to be either captured or delivered at the same time.

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications and partially supported by SQI’s Center for Regenerative Nanomedicine.

Evan Scott portrait

Scott attracts CBC funding for COVID-19 vaccine research

October 1, 2020
SQI faculty member Evan Scott is part of a multi-institutional team awarded $500,000 to investigate strategies to improve vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The project is one of three COVID-19 Response Awards given by the Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC), which required the research teams to include at least one principal investigator from each CBC institution: Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Rivnay awarded funding to investigate peripheral nerve regeneration

September 1, 2020

SQI faculty member Jonathan Rivnay has garnered two research grants totaling $1.8 million to explore different approaches for using electroactive scaffolds to affect regeneration of peripheral nerves. In both cases, the idea is to design new materials and biocomposites that will allow for electrical stimulation at the site of nerve damage, as electrical stimulation is known to influence cellular processes linked to nerve repair and regeneration.

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SQI core facilities earn 2020 Service Excellence Awards

August 20, 2020
The Simpson Querrey Institute’s Peptide Synthesis Core and Analytical bioNanoTechnology Equipment Core (ANTEC) have each been recognized with 2020 Core Facilities Service Excellence Awards by the Office for Research at Northwestern.
Alberto Ortega portrait

Meet the Researchers: Alberto Ortega

August 18, 2020
Alberto Ortega is a postdoctoral researcher who joined the laboratory of SQI faculty member Evangelos Kiskinis in 2015. In this interview, Ortega discusses a recent breakthrough from the Kiskinis Lab on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and his plans to continue developing more translational methods to study neurological diseases.
Wellington Hsu headshot

Meet the Faculty: Wellington Hsu, MD

August 11, 2020
Wellington Hsu is an SQI faculty member and the Clifford C. Raisbeck, MD, Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Professor of Neurological Surgery at Northwestern. He also runs a research lab with his wife, Erin Hsu, the assistant director of SQI. In this interview, Hsu describes his interest in sports medicine and how he uses his clinical expertise to contribute to SQI’s efforts to develop better materials for spine fusion procedures.

Stupp featured in Weinberg article about COVID-19 research

August 4, 2020

SQI director Samuel Stupp was highlighted in a recent Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences article about how fundamental research has laid the groundwork for potential solutions for COVID-19. In Stupp’s case, his experience conducting pioneering research on peptide materials for regenerative medicine enabled him to rapidly pivot and explore the possibility of using peptide-based therapies to treat COVID-19.

“You have to draw from many parts of science to solve problems, and it’s very difficult to predict which ones will be the most useful,” Stupp said. “This pandemic illustrates a very important point: that even though I was not focused on viral infections, I was able to use my knowledge and my experience in something else that is directly applicable to the current COVID-19 challenge.”

Vaccine image

Northwestern scientists publish guiding principles for COVID-19 vaccine development

July 21, 2020
A group of Northwestern University scientists including SQI members Michael Jewett and Samuel Stupp has created a set of guidelines to assist in developing a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19. Published July 21 in ACS Central Science, the principles were gleaned from early research on COVID-19 and data from the 2003 SARS outbreak, which was caused by a virus very similar to the one that causes COVID-19.
Yvonne Chan portrait

Meet the Researchers: Yvonne Chan, MD

July 14, 2020
Yvonne Chan, MD, recently completed her pediatric urology fellowship training at Northwestern University, including a year devoted to research in the laboratory of SQI faculty member Arun Sharma. In this interview, Chan describes what led her down her current career path and her work on a bladder regeneration project in the Sharma Lab.

New biomaterial could shield against harmful radiation

July 9, 2020

Researchers led by SQI faculty member Nathan Gianneschi have synthesized a new form of melanin enriched with selenium that shows extraordinary promise as a shield for human tissue against harmful radiation.

Gianneschi and his team envision that this new biomaterial, called "selenomelanin," could be applied to a person’s skin, like a melanin-based sunscreen. It could also be used as a protective film to shield materials from radiation while in transit, including during space travel.

Sumanas Jordan with a patient

New Gender Pathways Program makes trans health care a priority

July 7, 2020
SQI faculty member Sumanas Jordan has co-founded a new Northwestern Medicine program to provide transgender and non-binary individuals with gender-affirming, supportive medical services that treat the “whole person” throughout their lifetime. Called the Gender Pathways Program, the initiative offers coordinated multidisciplinary care by more than a dozen Northwestern Medicine physicians in obstetrics and gynecology, urology, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, internal medicine, family medicine and plastic surgery.
A graphic illustration of hybrid perovskite materials displaying different colors

SQI, MIT researchers develop novel materials for energy and sensing

July 6, 2020
A team of researchers from the Simpson Querrey Institute (SQI) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has demonstrated the ability to fine-tune the electronic properties of hybrid perovskite materials, which have drawn enormous interest as potential next-generation optoelectronic materials for devices such as solar cells and light sources.

Karver interview featured in Feinberg newsletter

June 23, 2020

Mark Karver, director of SQI’s Peptide Synthesis Core (PSC), was highlighted in the latest “Breakthroughs” newsletter produced by the Feinberg School of Medicine Research Office. In the interview, Karver describes the research trajectory that led him to Northwestern, the wide range of collaborations that involve the PSC and a current project investigating the use of peptide-based therapies for COVID-19.

Object crawls when hit with blue light

Synthetic materials mimic living creatures

June 22, 2020
SQI researchers have developed "robotic soft matter" that mimics living creatures by bending, rotating and even crawling when hit with light. The scientists believe the lifelike materials could carry out many tasks, with potential applications in energy, environmental remediation and advanced medicine.

Printable biosensors could detect contaminated fish

June 18, 2020

Researchers from Northwestern University and Iowa State University have developed a graphene-based electrochemical biosensor capable of detecting histamines (allergens) and toxins in food, with a low manufacturing cost and a much faster response than standard laboratory tests. SQI faculty member Mark Hersam was a co-corresponding author on the research, which showed that the printable biosensors could detect toxicologically relevant levels of histamine in both a buffer solution and fish broth.  

“These biosensors can be used in many settings such as import and export ports, food processing facilities, and supermarkets, where continuous on-site monitoring of food samples is needed,” Hersam said. “On-site testing would eliminate the need to send food samples for laboratory testing, which requires additional steps for handling and increases time and cost for analysis — consequently increasing the risk of foodborne illnesses and food wastage.”

A visual depiction of different enzyme combinations to discover optimal biosynthetic pathways sustainable biomanufacturing.

New platform boosts speed of sustainable biomanufacturing

June 16, 2020
SQI faculty member Michael Jewett has led the development of a new rapid-prototyping system to accelerate the design of biological systems, reducing the time to produce sustainable biomanufacturing products from months to weeks. The platform provides a quick and powerful design-build-test framework to discover optimal biosynthetic pathways for cellular metabolic engineering that could impact a range of industries from clean energy to consumer products.
Stephen Henrich headshot

Meet the Researchers: Stephen Henrich

June 8, 2020
Stephen Henrich is an MD-PhD candidate who has conducted research in the laboratory of SQI faculty member C. Shad Thaxton for the last four years. In this interview, Henrich describes his motivation to pursue a career as a physician-scientist and his current work on nanoparticle-based therapies to treat cancer.
Flexible sensor for COVID-19 symptoms

Wearable COVID-19 sensor receives NSF RAPID grant

June 4, 2020
A research team led by SQI faculty member John Rogers has received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue developing a novel wearable device and set of algorithms specifically tailored to catch early signs and monitor progression of COVID-19. The new funding will help Rogers and his team incorporate more advanced data analytics into the device and add a sensor to measure oxygen levels in the blood.

UV-resistant elastic for N95 masks receives NSF RAPID grant

May 19, 2020

SQI faculty member Mark Hersam has received a rapid response research (RAPID) grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a new elastic material that could enable N95 face masks to be disinfected and reused dozens of times without losing their snug fit.

Medical equipment is commonly disinfected with ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, which is highly effective in killing or inactivating pathogens but also rapidly ages plastics and rubber. Hersam’s team is developing a new type of elastic composite based on hydrated graphene oxide, a material that shows resistance to ultraviolet radiation and has proven intrinsic antimicrobial properties.

Guillermo Oliver portrait

Oliver elected into the Latin American Academy of Sciences

May 19, 2020
SQI faculty member Guillermo Oliver has been elected as a member of the Latin American Academy of Sciences. Oliver was recognized for pioneering research on the lymphatic system, among other discoveries.

Hersam to receive Medard W. Welch Award

May 7, 2020

SQI faculty member Mark Hersam has been selected to receive the 2020 Medard W. Welch Award, the top research honor from the American Vacuum Society. The award recognizes Hersam for “pioneering contributions to the synthesis, surface science, chemical functionalization, and application of low-dimensional nanoelectronic materials.”


Wireless sensor continuously tracks key symptoms of COVID-19

May 4, 2020

SQI faculty member John Rogers led the development of a flexible, wearable device the size of a postage stamp which can rest on a patient's throat and continuously track a range of coronavirus symptoms, including coughing intensity and patterns, chest wall movements, respiratory sounds, heart rate and body temperature. The wireless devices are currently being used on COVID-19 patients at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and the healthcare workers who treat them, offering monitoring both in the clinic and at home.

Data from these sensors are run through algorithms specifically tailored to catch early signs and symptoms associated with COVID-19. The researchers believe these devices could provide crucial insights at every stage, leading to earlier detection of the virus and quantifiable information about disease progression or a patient's response to treatment.

Gianneschi Lab develops safer hair dye based on synthetic melanin

April 30, 2020

Researchers in the laboratory of SQI faculty member Nathan Gianneschi have developed a hair dye process that is much milder than traditional hair dyes, which could prevent hair damage or health risks posed by frequent coloring. The new dye uses synthetic melanin to mimic natural human hair pigmentation.

“In this study, our postdoctoral fellow Claudia Battistella wondered whether we could use a synthetic process to make a melanin coating on hair, that would mimic the appearance of real, melanized hair in the full array of natural hair colors,” Gianneschi said. “Such an approach, if done under mild conditions, could be an alternative to other kinds of hair dyes, avoiding some of the toxicity or allergies associated with those chemicals.”

Samuel Stupp

SQI director Samuel Stupp elected to National Academy of Sciences

April 28, 2020
Simpson Querrey Institute director Samuel Stupp has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of “outstanding contributions to supramolecular and materials chemistry," the academy announced. Stupp and the other new members will be inducted at the academy’s annual meeting next April.

Novel brain mapping technology outperforms current platforms

April 27, 2020

SQI faculty member John Rogers coauthored a study in Science Translational Medicine that describes a new high-resolution brain mapping tool called “Neural Matrix.”

The technology is a thin, flexible sheet that rests on the surface of the brain and uses more than 1,000 measurement sites to sample a centimeter-scale brain region. It exceeds the lifespans of current neural interface systems and may enhance how brain function is measured and how efficiently neurological diseases are diagnosed and treated.

One-step diagnostic tool receives NSF RAPID grant

April 20, 2020

SQI faculty member Michael Jewett is part of a team of Northwestern University synthetic biologists aiming to develop a one-step diagnostic test for infectious diseases, including COVID-19. The investigators recently received a rapid response research (RAPID) grant from the National Science Foundation and hope to create an easy-to-use test that provides a result in less than an hour and costs less than a dollar to manufacture.

By simplifying the process, they believe they can overcome some of the hurdles of traditional laboratory testing and enable the large-scale testing required to reopen the economy or prepare for a predicted coronavirus resurgence in the fall. The tool combines the gene-editing tool CRISPR, custom genetic circuits and cell-free synthetic biology in order to detect the virus and signal its presence in a sample — possibly acquired via nasal swab or saliva.

Wireless sensor on baby's foot

Rogers awarded top honor for clinical research excellence

April 16, 2020
SQI faculty member John Rogers has received the Herbert Pardes Clinical Research Excellence Award for developing an innovative wireless monitoring technology for newborns. The award is the most prestigious annual honor given by the Clinical Research Forum and recognizes the study “that best shows a high degree of innovation and creativity, advances science, and has an impact upon human disease.”
Simpson Querrey Institute logo

SQI scientists developing innovative strategies to fight COVID-19

April 14, 2020
Several scientists from the Simpson Querrey Institute have quickly pivoted their focus to COVID-19 research to combat the pandemic. Read about their creative efforts to diagnose and treat the disease, as well as a cell-free manufacturing platform to rapidly produce promising new therapies.

Peptide therapies could disable coronavirus’ spike proteins

April 13, 2020

Investigators at the Simpson Querrey Institute (SQI) are collaborating with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop new peptide therapies for targeting and disabling the coronavirus’ so-called “spike proteins," which attach to and infect healthy cells. 

SQI scientists involved in the project include SQI director Samuel Stupp, Peptide Synthesis Core director Mark Karver, assistant core scientist Suvendu Biswas, and Ruomeng Qiu, a graduate student in the Stupp group. 

Jonathan Rivnay portrait

Rivnay earns pair of early career awards

April 10, 2020
SQI faculty member Jonathan Rivnay recently received two awards recognizing his exceptional work as a young scientist — the Outstanding Early-Career Investigator Award from the Materials Research Society (MRS) and the 2020 Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research.
Hiroaki Sai portrait

Meet the Researchers: Hiroaki Sai

April 9, 2020
Hiroaki Sai is a research associate in the laboratory of SQI director Samuel Stupp. In this interview, Sai describes his research in solar energy conversion, his contributions to an art installation that has been internationally displayed, and how he developed into a strong and willing mentor for younger scientists in the Stupp group.
Samuel Stupp portrait

SQI director Samuel Stupp awarded 2020 Nanoscience Prize

April 8, 2020
Simpson Querrey Institute director Samuel Stupp has received the 2020 Nanoscience Prize, the International Society for Nanoscale Science, Computation and Engineering (ISNSCE) announced April 8. Stupp was honored for his pioneering contributions in the areas of self-assembly and supramolecular chemistry.
Jonathan Rivnay portrait

‘Smart’ device for muscle regeneration could speed healing of large wounds

April 8, 2020
Simpson Querrey Institute faculty member Jonathan Rivnay is part of a multi-institution team aiming to develop a device combining bioelectronics, artificial intelligence and regenerative medicine to regrow muscle tissue in large wounds. The four-year initiative is supported by a $22 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which seeks to use the technology to treat combat injuries.
Image depicting the coronavirus

Cell-free biotechnology could help accelerate COVID-19 therapeutics

April 3, 2020
A startup company co-founded by SQI faculty member Michael Jewett is using a cell-free biomanufacturing approach to speed the production of antiviral medications that could potentially treat the coronavirus. The platform could produce new therapies more than 10 times faster than current methods.

Jewett, Gianneschi elected into AIMBE College of Fellows

March 25, 2020

SQI faculty members Michael Jewett and Nathan Gianneschi were among the 156 new members elected into the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows, AIMBE announced March 24.

The fellows represent the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers, according to AIMBE. Membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to research, education and practice in the field, as well as those who have pioneered new technologies or developed innovative approaches to bioengineering education.

Nathan Gianneschi portrait

Gianneschi group extends polymer chemistry into nanoscale 4D printing

March 24, 2020
SQI faculty member Nathan Gianneschi coauthored a recent paper in Nature Communications which describes a 4D printer capable of producing patterned surfaces that recreate the complexity of cell surfaces.
Pat and Shirley Ryan pose with Simpson Querrey Institute director Samuel Stupp

Pat and Shirley Ryan learn about SQI's innovative research

March 13, 2020
The Simpson Querrey Institute (SQI) hosted Pat and Shirley Welsh Ryan in a recent visit that enabled SQI’s scientists to showcase the broad range of their research as well as new space in the Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center. The researchers demonstrated how they are synthesizing advanced materials for medical and renewable energy applications, studying their interactions with neurons and stem cells, and performing animal studies and advancing toward clinical translation in regenerative medicine.

Wireless sensors monitor babies, pregnant women in developing world

March 11, 2020

An interdisciplinary team co-led by SQI faculty member John Rogers has developed a wireless, battery-charged, affordable monitoring system for newborn babies that can easily be implemented to provide clinical-grade care in nearly any setting. The soft, flexible sensors can also monitor pregnant women during labor and could reduce risks for both mothers and infants, particularly in low-resource settings.

These devices are being deployed in hospitals in Ghana, India, Kenya and Zambia and were featured in a recent cover article in the journal Nature Medicine.

Jewett Lab develops new platform for engineering ribosomes

February 28, 2020

SQI faculty member Michael Jewett led newly published research that describes a system — called ribosome synthesis and evolution (RISE) — that allows the scientists to rapidly create cell-free ribosomes in vitro and then select ribosomes for specific functions. The ability to evolve ribosomes without cell viability constraints could lead to new ways to synthesize materials and therapies.

ALS motor neuron

Kiskinis Lab discovers cellular mechanisms behind genetic mutation in ALS

February 18, 2020
SQI faculty member Evangelos Kiskinis and colleagues recently discovered the mechanisms and consequences of a defect in the gene known as C9orf72, which is responsible for a large proportion of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases. The study was published online Feb. 13 in the journal Neuron.
Silvia Minardi portrait

Meet the Faculty: Silvia Minardi

February 17, 2020
Silvia Minardi joined the SQI faculty in 2019 as a Research Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery. In her ongoing collaborations with SQI members Erin and Wellington Hsu, Minardi is exploring novel techniques for bone regeneration, with a focus on spine fusion.
Mike Jewett headshot

Jewett awarded Walter P. Murphy professorship

February 10, 2020
SQI faculty member Michael Jewett has been named a Walter P. Murphy Professor, effective January 1, 2020. The endowed professorship is named after the founding donor of Northwestern University's Technological Institute and includes a stipend and one year of paid graduate student support to help further the faculty member’s research initiatives.

Stupp interview featured in Advanced Materials

January 23, 2020

Advanced Materials published a Q&A article with SQI director Samuel Stupp on Jan. 15. In the interview, Stupp described how he became a pioneer in self-assembled materials, his interdisciplinary approach to science and his future plans for research.

“My laboratory is exploring supramolecular assemblies that respond rapidly to external inputs of energy to perform tasks we expect from a living creature,” Stupp said. “The systems could therefore be labelled ‘robotic materials’ and it is indeed very exciting research, progressing toward artificial life with supramolecular systems.

“I would also like to develop further the field we pioneered over the past two decades, ‘supramolecular biomaterials.’ These supramolecular systems were structured to signal cells and with them we demonstrated their unprecedented ability to help regenerate tissues.”

Meet the Researchers: Sijia Yi

January 20, 2020
Sijia Yi is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of SQI faculty member Evan Scott. She has published 15 papers in peer-reviewed journals and presented a talk titled "Cardiovascular Immunotherapy: Engineering Nanocarriers for Selective Modulation of Inflammatory Cells" on Jan. 16 at the Rising Stars of SQI Lecture. Click the link to learn more about Yi and her research.

SQI’s core facilities recognized with Service Excellence Awards

January 15, 2020
Both of the Simpson Querrey Institute’s core facilities—the Peptide Synthesis Core and the Analytical bioNanoTechnology Equipment Core (ANTEC)—have been recognized with 2019 Core Facilities Service Excellence Awards by the Office for Research at Northwestern.