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UMass Amherst Engineer Jinglei Ping Wins AFOSR YIP for Multiscale Electrical Mapping of Biosystems

Jinglei Ping

Jinglei Ping

Jinglei Ping, an assistant professor in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department (MIE) in the College of Engineering as well as in the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), has been awarded a prestigious early career award from the Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) in the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to study “Multiscale Electrical Mapping of Biosystems.” Ping is one of 40 U.S. scientists and engineers chosen to receive the YIP grants for 2020.

Ping will use the $450,000 YIP grant to develop a new bioelectronic technology for mapping the physicochemical signals of a whole tissue over long periods of time at high sensitivity and spatiotemporal resolution. The technology, according to Ping, holds the potential to transform the way we study and control large-scale cellular biosystems.

Ping says that in this new technology horizon, significant advancements could be made in a broad spectrum of applications from neuroscience to brain-machine interfaces.

Ping joined MIE and IALS in the fall 2018. The Ping Lab at the Life Science Laboratories is interested in novel properties at the interface of nanomaterials and biosystems and the downstream applications in the development of biomedical tools, healthcare, point-of-care diagnostics, and environmental monitoring.

As Ping says about his YIP research, “The interdisciplinary nature of the work makes it well suited to be performed by our lab with broad research strength ranging from nanomaterial preparation to prototyping of biomedical tools.”

For the YIP research, the Ping Lab will develop the new technology by using rising two-dimensional materials, substances with a thickness of a few nanometers or less.

Ping explains that “There are many challenges for interfacing a large-scale biosystem at a cellular resolution. Two-dimensional materials with unique material-bio-interfacing properties are well suited to be fabricated into arrays of micrometer-scale devices to interrogate spatiotemporal information of a whole tissue at cellular level.”

The YIP project will deliver a platform system that uses microdevices based on engineered two-dimensional materials. The Ping Lab will use this platform to uncover unknown neurological phenomena and address high-impact problems by stimulating neurons, monitoring microenvironmental neuropeptide traffic, and studying cell-cell interactions.

“The research is aggressive, maybe revolutionary, and of high risks,” says Ping. “But the tremendous potential benefit justifies the investment of dedicated efforts. And the YIP award from AFOSR makes the innovation and development possible.”

According to the YIP website, the objective of the YIP program is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and the related challenges in science and engineering.

The official press release for 2020 YIP award recipients can be found here. (November 2019)