→ Our YouTube site is becoming the go-to place for a front-row view of immune cells in action. Below are links to our video playlists:

Human neutrophils in action

Signaling in immune cells: A cross-disciplinary view

Recognition of bacteria and fungi by individual immune cells

Nanomechanics of biomolecular interactions

Computer simulations of immune cells

→ A combination of three of our videos is featured as Movie 13.5 in the textbook “Molecular Biology of the Cell” (sixth edition).
→ PhD candidate Emmet Francis presents his research at the 2019 ARCS Symposium “Meet the minds of the future” in San Francisco.   A video of his talk can be found at Emmet’s Facebook page.  He recently also received an $11k award from the ARCS Foundation for the academic year 2019-2020.  Congratulations!

Moreover, he did a great job as chair of the 2019 Biomedical Engineering Graduate Group Research Symposium.  Photos from this successful conference can be viewed here.

→ Our undergraduate researchers Lay Heng Teng and Jonathan Brand gave excellent presentations at the 2019 Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Conference of UC Davis.  Lay Heng presented a poster on “Defining human neutrophil spreading on different substrates”.  Jonathan gave a podium talk on “Single-cell comparison between antibody- and complement-mediated phagocytosis”.
→ PhD student Emmet Francis adds two more awards and another publication to his record of achievements.  Emmet has won a “UC Davis & Humanities Graduate Research Award” as well as an “Achievement Reward for College Scientists (ARCS)”, both for the academic year 2018-2019.  Congratulations! 

His latest paper, a focused review entitled, “Mechanistic understanding of single-cell behavior is essential for transformative advances in biomedicine“, has been published in the September issue of  The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, where it has been highlighted by inclusion in the editor’s picks from the current issue.

→ We are thrilled and proud to learn that first-year PhD student Emmet Francis has been awarded a prestigious 3-year Graduate Research Fellowship by the National Science Foundation. 


→ Our study of the role of calcium bursts in immunotaxis has been published in the March 13 issue of Science Signaling.  Emmet Francis, the first author of the paper, did most of his work on this project as an undergraduate volunteer researcher.  Links to the full article and a free PDF reprint are included in the paper’s entry in the list of our publications.    

News articles about this publication have appeared in the egghead research blog and on the BME departmental website.

→ All our presenters did a great job at the 2018 Biophysical Society Meeting.  From left:  PhD student Emmet Francis, Undergraduate senior Zhiyu “Hugh” Xiao, and PhD student Trey Simpson.  Enjoying Trey’s poster at the far right is Wesley Wong, a former student and now Harvard professor.

More pictures are on our facebook page in this gallery.

→ A nice screenshot:

→ Undergraduate student Zhiyu “Hugh” Xiao has secured two travel awards to support his attendance of the 2018  Biophysical Society Meeting, one from the Biophysical Society, and the other from the Undergraduate Research Center of UC Davis.  Congratulations!  

Hugh will be one of four presenters from our lab at this conference.

→ Congratulations to our graduating seniors!  We will miss Julie Zimmer, especially her enthusiasm in the lab.  We are looking forward to new scientific discoveries with Emmet Francis as PhD student.

More pictures are on our facebook page and in this gallery.

→ Zhiyu “Hugh” Xiao, currently a junior, is awarded a 2017 Provost’s Undergraduate Fellowship for his proposal “High-Resolution Imaging of Cell and Molecular Interactions by Reflection Interference Contrast Microscopy”.  The fellowship will allow him to purchase and 3D-print hardware needed to advance his project.  


→ We are tremendously proud to learn that Emmet Francis has been announced as the winner of the 2017 M.S. Ghausi Medal.  The Ghausi medal is the highest honor awarded each year by the College of Engineering to one outstanding graduating senior. 

Emmet’s accolades to date include authorship on two articles published in high-impact journals, one podium talk and one poster presentation at international conferences, a Provost’s Undergraduate Fellowship (PUF), and travel awards from the Biophysical Society and the UC Davis Undergraduate Research Center. Congratulations!

More pictures are on our facebook page.


→ Two of our 2017 papers explore the sprawling frontier of “immunology beyond immunobiology”.  The studies significantly extend our quantitative understanding of immunotaxis – the recruitment of immune cells to sites of infection, trauma, or inflammation. 

→ Our undergraduate researchers Emmet Francis, Julie Zimmer, and Zhiyu “Hugh” Xiao do a great job presenting their projects at the 2017 Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Conference of UC Davis. [Click thumbnail at the right for a larger picture.]
→ Undergraduate student Emmet Francis, currently a junior, is awarded a 2016 Provost’s Undergraduate Fellowship for his proposal “A relationship between cytoskeletal remodeling and calcium bursts in human neutrophils”.  This award continues an impressive streak of excellent achievements by our undergraduates!
→ Undergraduate student Zhiyu “Hugh” Xiao receives the prestigious Mertens Sophomore Award of 2016.  This award is presented annually to one outstanding sophomore student (selected from currently ~4,800 sophomores of UC Davis) in recognition of high scholastic achievement by the Phi-Kappa-Phi honor society.  Congratulations!
→ Undergraduate student Kevin Tran presents his research project at the 2016 Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Conference of UC Davis.  Kevin’s poster is entitled, “A minimal capsule protects Cryptococcus neoformans from recognition by human neutrophils and monocytes”.
→ Our research is showcased in three well-received presentations at the 60th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society.  As one of the youngest podium speakers, undergraduate student Emmet Francis gives a talk about calcium bursts in human white blood cells.  Graduate student Trey Simpson presents a poster about a new method to quantify binding kinetics at the surface of laser-trapped particles.
→ Our paper “Controlled one-on-one encounters between immune cells and microbes reveal mechanisms of phagocytosis” (Biophysical Journal 2015, PDF 1177 KB) presents an authoritative overview of new insights gained from modern, interdisciplinary single-live-cell studies.  The article discusses several “universal mechanistic principles of immune-cell phagocytosis in detail, hoping to lay the groundwork for an interdisciplinary framework that provides a useful context for more specialized cell and molecular phagocytosis studies”.
→ Our paper “Coccidioides endospores and spherules draw strong chemotactic, adhesive, and phagocytic responses by individual human neutrophils” (Lee et al. 2015; see also below) is recommended by a member of the Faculty of 1000 (F1000), which places this work in the F1000 library of the top 2% of published articles in biology and medicine.  A recent review categorized our study as “of particular interest” and “of importance”.  Instructional videos featuring this research have been uploaded to our YouTube channel.
→ Cheng-Yuk Lee, Christine Hastey, and Volkmar Heinrich, in collaboration with the group of George R. Thompson III (Dept. of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and Dept. of Internal Medicine), publish the results of an 8-year, interdisciplinary study of the recognition of the pathogenic fungus Coccidioides posadasii (cause of Valley fever) by human neutrophils in PLoS One.  The study presents an unusual amount of new methodology, concepts, results, and mechanistic insight.  For example:

  • By examining human immune cells, it preempts mounting doubts of how well animal studies carry over to human hosts, and tackles knowledge gaps left by the fact that human cells cannot be cultured or genetically manipulated.
  • It examines mechanisms of chemotaxis, adhesion, and phagocytosis in an integrative manner.
  • This integrative approach is applied to 7 different targets, including 5 pathogenic fungi, under otherwise identical conditions, allowing us to discriminate and rank fungal pathogens in terms of their aptitude to evade recognition.
→ Graduate student Trey Simpson (left) wins a “Best Poster Presentation” award at the 4th annual BME Graduate Group Research Day (2015).  Trey also receives a BME Graduate Group Travel Award to present his research at the 2015 UC Bioengineering Symposium.
→ Action movies starring human white blood cells that chase down and neutralize Salmonella bacteria are part of an instructional video on our YouTube channel.  [Click thumbnail at the right to play the YouTube movie in a separate window.]
→ Cheng-Yuk Lee, Chenzhou Yu, Christine Hastey, and Volkmar Heinrich, in collaboration with the group of Andreas Bäumler (Dept. of Medical Microbiology and Immunology), investigated how immune cells recognize Salmonella bacteria from a distance, and how Salmonella Typhi (the cause of typhoid fever) evades this detection. The study was published in PLOS Pathogens (PDF 3912 KB) and highlighted in Nature Reviews Microbiology. It showcases how innovative concepts and approaches developed by bioengineers can provide new insight into the mechanisms of vital cellular behavior, and help us tackle scientific questions that are inaccessible to traditional biological methods.
Dean_Corey→ Undergraduate students Dean Pernas and Corey Long present their projects at the 2014 Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Conference of UC Davis.
Corey-Long→ Undergraduate student Corey Long is awarded a Provost’s Undergraduate Fellowship for his proposal “The Effect of the Cryptococcus Capsule in Immune Recognition”.
→ Undergraduate student Matthew Halverson, who got his first taste of scientific research as a sophomore in our lab, wins the 2012 Ghausi Medal, the highest honor awarded by the College of Engineering to a graduating senior. Matt also received the 2012 Departmental citation for “Outstanding Academic Achievement”.
→ Our paper on E- and N-cadherin binding (Ounkomol et al. 2010; PDF 369 KB) ranks 16th among the most downloaded papers published in the Biophysical Journal in 2011. The paper introduced important innovations in AFM-based mechanical testing of cells and molecules.
ThumbFrameButton_HeinrichLee_JCS2011_Movie→ Our movie showing the “chemotactic and phagocytic response of a micropipette-held human neutrophil to zymosan” is in the supplementary material of our paper on the “blurred line between chemotactic chase and phagocytic consumption” (Journal of Cell Science; PDF 3389 KB). The movie met with enthusiasm at the 2011 Gordon Research Conference on Phagocytes and the 55th Annual Meeting of the Coccidioidomycosis Study Group. [Click thumbnail at the far right to play the YouTube movie in a separate window.]
GraduationCombiUC Davis Commencement Ceremony (June 9, 2011): Cheng-Yuk Lee and Chek Ounkomol walk…
Thumb_Phagocytosis_Zymosan_6050→ Our paper “Target-specific mechanics of phagocytosis: Protrusive neutrophil response to zymosan differs from the uptake of antibody-tagged pathogens” (Lee et al. 2011; PDF 1104 KB) is highlighted in the “In this issue” section at the front of the Journal of Cell Science. [Click thumbnails to play YouTube movies in separate windows.]
ThumbFrameButton_PhagocytosisSimul_Zymosan4-032→ Our collaborative, open-access paper “Protrusive push versus enveloping embrace: Computational model of phagocytosis predicts key regulatory role of cytoskeletal membrane anchors” (Herant et al. 2011) is accessed more than 500 times in the first three weeks after online publication, and reaches 1000 views within ten weeks. [Click thumbnails to play YouTube movies in separate windows.]
logo-f1000→ Our paper presenting … functionalized microspheres arrayed on AFM cantilevers … (Ounkomol et al. 2010; PDF 369 KB; see also below) is selected and evaluated by a Member of the Faculty of 1000 (F1000), which places this work in the F1000 library of the top 2% of published articles in biology and medicine.
→ Our paper “Single-cell adhesion tests against functionalized microspheres arrayed on AFM cantilevers confirm heterophilic E- and N-cadherin binding” (Ounkomol et al. 2010; PDF 369 KB) is among the top 10 most frequently accessed articles published in the Biophysical Journal in the preceding 30 days. The paper pioneers a new, custom-AFM-based approach to characterize multiple biomolecular interactions of the same cell or functionalized bead in a swift sequential or cyclical manner. [Click thumbnails to play the supplementary YouTube movies in separate windows.]
Cheng-Yuk Lee wins “Outstanding Poster Award” at 2010 UC Systemwide Bioengineering Symposium
→ Our work on phagocytosis is featured in the Spring 2010 issue of Biomedical Computation Review (a magazine published by the Simbios National NIH Center for Biomedical Computing).
→ Jonathan Lam is first author on a Biophysical Journal paper on macrophage mechanics (2009; PDF 768 KB). The paper is based on Jon’s work as an undergraduate researcher.
→ Jonathan Lam receives Departmental citation as “Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher” (2008).
→ Our paper on “Biophysics in reverse: Using blood cells to accurately calibrate force-microscopy cantilevers” (Applied Physics Letters 2008; PDF 616 KB) is selected for inclusion in two Virtual Journals: the April 28, 2008 issue of Virtual Journal of Nanoscale Science & Technology, and the May 1, 2008 issue of Virtual Journal of Biological Physics Research. It also is featured in a UC Davis press release, in a spotlight of the popular Nanowerk WEB site, and in the book “Nano-Society – Pushing the Boundaries of Technology“.
Chek Ounkomol‘s performance helps secure a prestigious 2-year GREAT training grant sponsored by the UC Systemwide Biotechnology Research and Education Program (BREP, 2008-2010). See also the UC press release.
NewAndNotable-BJ→ Our paper on “Force versus axial deflection of pipette-aspirated closed membranes” (Biophysical Journal 2007; PDF 410 KB) earns a “New and Notable” highlight at the front of the Journal.
→ Our work on phagocytosis mechanics (Herant et al. 2005 and 2006) is discussed in an Opinion by Hallett & Dewitt (2007) in Trends in Cell Biology.
[Click thumbnails to play YouTube movies in separate windows. See also the Research section.]







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