ME Student Captures Science & Engineering Symposium’s Top Honor


Else Frolich
Else Frolich

Mechanical Engineering Department would like to congratulate graduate student Else Frohlich for winning the President’s Award, the top prize at Boston University’s annual Science and Engineering Research Symposium:

  • President’s Award
  • Student: Else Frohlich
  • Advisors: Joseph Charest (Draper Laboratory) and Xin Zhang (Boston University)
  • Title: The Use of Controlled Surface Topography and Flow-induced Shear Stress to Influence Renal Epithelial Cell Function

Boston University hosts its annual Science and Engineering Day event, which is held in the George Sherman Union and gives students from all science and engineering disciplines the opportunity to share their current research endeavors.

“Else has exhibited excellent performance in her research, due to her excellent intellectual ability, strong creativity in problem solving, ability to understand both large scale goals and scientific detail, and her absolutely outstanding work ethic,” said advisors Charest and Zhang.

Physiologically representative and well-controlled in vitro models of human tissue are required to safely, accurately, and rapidly develop therapies for disease. Current in vitro models do not possess appropriate levels of cell function, resulting in an inaccurate representation of in vivo physiology. Physiologically relevant mechanical parameters, such as sub-micron substrate topography and flow-induced shear stress (FSS), can control cell functions such as alignment, migration, differentiation and phenotypic expression of cells.

In this research, Else developed a microfluidic tissue modeling device (MTMD) to mimic a kidney tubule microenvironment through simultaneous and independent control of both topography and FSS. To further establish the MTMD, a model cell type from a human renal proximal tubule cell line (HK-2) was cultured in the device and specific cell responses of alignment and tight junction (TJ) formation were quantified. Ultimately, the combination of topography and FSS resulted in the creation of a more realistic in vitro model of kidney tissue, which can significantly contribute to biological studies, disease models, pharmaceutical testing and tissue engineering applications.

“Research can seem daunting at times, but accomplishments in the lab, attending conferences and publishing journal articles gives me a sense of ownership and pride that is hard to find in a classroom,” said Else.