Graduate Program in Bioengineering (BioE) student Dean Berlin has taken second place and a $1000 prize in the inaugural Dean's Master's Student Research Award competition for his thesis titled "Enzyme Inhibition in Microfluidics for Re-engineering Bacterial Synthesis Pathways." Berlin is advised by BioE affiliate professor Gary Rubloff (Materials Science and Engineering/Institute for Systems Research [ISR]/Director, Maryland NanoCenter).
The competition is a companion to the Dean's Doctoral Research Award competition, also launched this spring. Both awards are designed to confer special recognition that will be valuable in launching the careers of our graduate students, and to show all students the importance of high quality engineering research.
Berlin focuses on how bacteria use the exchange of small molecules to coordinate changes in group response, such as the onset of virulence or film-formation, when their population reaches a threshold. His thesis describes the use of a bio-microfluidic device that inhibits the production of these communication molecules in order to prevent this behavioral change. Berlin also outlines design optimizations implemented in the device that improve its performance, allowing for greater control and less influence of background signals. The work represents part of the progression of a larger, collaborative research project on bacterial signaling currently underway in the research groups of professors William Bentley (Chair, BioE), Reza Ghodssi (Electrical and Computer Engineering/ISR), Gregory Payne (University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute; Director, Center for Biosystems Research), and Gary Rubloff.
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May 19, 2009