Author: Lisa Ercolano

Dingchang Lin, an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, recently received the prestigious Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

The five-year $2.05 million grant will support Lin and his team on the innovation of genetically encoded molecular tools based on in-cellulo protein assemblies for cell dynamics and mechanobiology study. The work has the potential not only to advance understanding of how biological systems develop and age, but also to reveal the causes of disease and advance the discovery of drugs for aging, cancers, neurological disorders, and beyond.

The Lin lab seeks to innovate molecular tools and electronic probes for the sensing and modulation of cell dynamics in health and disease. The team exploits their multidisciplinary expertise in materials science, protein engineering, and device engineering to push the spatiotemporal resolution limits of biosensing, with a goal of eventually realizing organ-wide and single-cell mapping of cellular dynamics with exceptional temporal resolution. Recently, Lin and his colleagues demonstrated a revolutionary new paradigm for neural recording, where protein “ticker tape” devices were genetically encoded in live neurons to record the history of their activity for high-throughput post-termination retrieval. This strategy circumvents a long-standing dilemma in cellular-level activity mapping: large-scale single-cell probing, and high temporal resolution cannot be simultaneously achieved.