Engineering professor recognized as 'emerging leader' in biomaterials field


By Gabrielle Stewart

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The editorial board of Bioengineering & Translational Medicine, the flagship journal of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), recently recognized Amir Sheikhi, assistant professor of chemical engineering and biomedical engineering, as an emerging leader in his field. As part of the recognition, Sheikhi was also invited to contribute a paper to the journal’s Futures special issue. He also presented the paper at the AIChE annual conference held Nov. 16-20.

The journal’s editorial board identified Sheikhi and eight other researchers from around the globe in the early stages of their independent careers and invited them to submit a manuscript on the most recent and exciting research in their lab — an indicator of the work and people that may predict the future shape of the field, according to the journal introduction. Sheikhi’s paper was featured on the cover of the journal.

“It’s heartwarming when your efforts and research are recognized as something that will shape the future of the field,” Sheikhi said. “It gives me more energy to push our technologies forward.”

The researchers examined in situ forming microporous hydrogels, which undergo gel formation after being implanted in the body and function as artificial scaffolds for cells to grow on after a tissue injury. Hydrogels can mimic tissues but often lack interconnecting pores for nutrients and oxygen to flow through, so they become ineffective beyond a certain thickness, Sheikhi said. Sheikhi’s team developed micro-hydrogels that attach to each other upon exposure to light, forming a tissue scaffold that leaves space between the small gels for nutrient transport and rapid cell infiltration.

The team also examined another parameter: the likelihood of hydrogels to melt at human body temperature. To prevent this, they exposed the hydrogels to light in different intensities and durations to determine an optimal condition for the hydrogels to build scaffolds and remain stable at higher temperatures.

Sheikhi said his work could have several applications in accelerated tissue repair. With further research, the micro-hydrogels could be injected into the body to heal damaged muscle, skin or brain tissue.

Sheikhi is a member of more than 10 professional societies, including AIChE, the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the Materials Research Society (MRS). He is a recipient of the AIChE Chen Young Professional Leadership Scholarship as well as AIChE’s 35 under 35 award and has presented at more than 35 conferences for AIChE, ACS, MRS and more.


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Megan Lakatos

headshot of male professor in business attire

Amir Sheikhi, assistant professor of chemical engineering. IMAGE: PENN STATE COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING.