student and faculty conducting research

PhD Students and Post-Doctoral Researchers

Ritu Raman

  • Advisor:
      • Rashid Bashir
  • Departments:
    • Mechanical Science and Engineering
  • Areas of Expertise:
      • 3D Printing
      • Tissue Engineering
      • Soft Robotics
      • Bioactuators


  • Thesis Title:
      • 3D Printed Muscle-Powered Bio-Bots
  • Thesis abstract:
      • Complex biological systems sense, process, and respond to a range of environmental signals in real-time. The ability of such systems to adapt their functional response to dynamic external signals motivates the use of biological materials in other engineering applications. Recent advances in 3D printing have enabled the manufacture of complex structures from biological materials. We have developed a projection stereolithographic 3D printing apparatus capable of patterning cells and biocompatible polymers at physiologically relevant length scales, on the order of single cells. This enables reverse engineering in vitro model systems that recreate the structure and function of native tissue for applications ranging from high-throughput drug testing to regenerative medicine. While reverse engineering native tissues and organs has important implications in biomedical engineering, the ability to build with biology presents the next generation of engineers with both a unique design challenge and opportunity. Specifically, we now have the ability to forward engineer bio-hybrid machines and robots (bio-bots) that harness the adaptive functionalities of biological materials to achieve more complex functional behaviors than machines composed of synthetic materials alone. Perhaps the most intuitive demonstration of a biological machine is a system that can generate force and produce motion. To that end, we have designed and 3D printed locomotive bio-bots, powered by external electrical and optical stimuli. In addition to being the first demonstrations of untethered locomotion in skeletal muscle-powered soft robots, these bio-hybrid machines have served as meso-scale models for studying tissue self-assembly, maturation, damage, remodeling, and healing in vitro. Bio-hybrid machines that can dynamically sense and adaptively respond to a range of environmental signals have broad applicability in healthcare applications such as dynamic implants or targeted drug delivery. Advanced research in exoskeletons and hyper-natural functionality could even extend the useful application of such machines to national defense and environmental cleanup. We have developed a modular skeletal muscle bioactuator that can serve as a fundamental building block for such machines, setting the stage for future generations of bio-hybrid machines that can self-assemble, self-heal, and perhaps even self-replicate to target grand engineering challenges. Furthermore, we present a robust optimized protocol for manufacturing 3D printed muscle-powered biological machines, and a mechanism to incorporate biological building blocks into the toolbox of the next generation of engineers and scientists. For more information, please visit: RituRaman.com
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Contact information:
rraman9@illinois.edu