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Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Symposium on Applications of Bio-Membranes in Science and Technology


The University of Cincinnati sponsored a one-day, regional symposium on the bio-applications of membrane science and technology as part of of their NSF IGERT training grant. The symposium took place September 30, 2011 on the UC campus. The PI and co-PIs invited experts from academia, industry, and government to present their research and perspectives about bio-applications of membranes. We engaged a second IGERT site (University of Kentucky, Dr. Kim Anderson, PI) to help organize and carry out the meeting. The conference was structured along three length scales: 1) nano/molecular; 2) micro/cellular; and 3) macro, each length scale and infused with key advances in the biological (non-medical), biomedical and engineering areas of biomembranes.

Following introductory remarks by the IGERT PI (Dr. David Butler) and welcoming comments from UC’s Senior Vice President for Faculty Affairs and Provost (Dr. Santa Jeremy Ono), the PIs or co-PIs chaired the following sessions with the guest speakers and their affiliations noted:

Scientific Session 1: Bioapplications for Membranes at the Nano/Molecular Level, Drs. David Butler (UC) and Kim Anderson (UK), Session Co-Chairs

9:00 a.m.: Mike Flagler, Ph.D., Proctor & Gamble Company: “Utilizing Proteomics to Characterize Hair Damage at the Molecular Level”

9:30 a.m.: Carl Simon, Ph.D, National Institute of Standards and Technology: “Morphological Changes Driven by Nanofibrous Scaffolds Induce Marrow Stromal Cell Osteogenesis”

10:00 a.m.: Heather Allen, Ph.D., Ohio State University: “Bio-membrane and Lung Surfactant Organization: Interfacial Spectroscopy and Microscopy Studies”

Scientific Session 2: Bioapplications for Membranes at the Micro/Cellular Level, Dr. Ronald Millard (UC) and Dr. Steven Hoath (CCHMC), Session Co-Chairs

10:45 a.m.: William Heineman, Ph.D., University of Cincinnati: “Membranes: Key Components in Chemical and Biosensors”

11:15 a.m.: Kim Anderson, Ph.D., University of Kentucky: “Using Antigenic Disguise Membrane Proteins to Inhibit Cell and Plasma Protein Interactions With Surfaces”

11:45 a.m.: John Maggio, Ph.D., University of Cincinnati: “How Drugs Cross Biological Membranes: The Special Case of the Blood-Brain Barrier”

1:15 p.m. Round Table: Emerging Fields in Bio-applications Research for Membranes

Scientific Session 3: Bioapplications for Membranes at the Macro Level, Dr. Dion Dionysiou (UC) and Dr. Joel Fried (UD), Session Co-Chairs

2:00 p.m.: Peter Shires, BVSc, M.S., Ethicon Endo Surgery: “Potential Medical Applications of Pulsed Power Induced Changes in Biomembranes”

2:30 p.m.: Lutgarde Raskin, Ph.D., University of Michigan: “Role of Membrane Biofilms in Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactors for Domestic Wastewater Treatment”

3:00 p.m.: Andrew Steckl, Ph.D., University of Cincinnati: “An Electrofluidic Approach to Studying Membranes”

3:45 p.m.: Round Table: Future Career Opportunities in Bio-applications for Membranes

4:30 p.m.: Closing Remarks: Dion Dionysiou, PhD Symposium Co-Chair, University of Cincinnati

Poster Session: Bioapplications of Membrane Science and Technology

Several unique features should be noted about this symposium.

1. We intentionally mixed biological, biomedical and engineering lectures in each of the three sessions as well as speakers from academia, industry and government. We believe that it is critical for our trainees to be exposed to a broad array of bio-applications for membranes in areas outside of their expertise. Please note that when we recently polled our IGERT students, it was this diversity and breadth that made them value this symposium more than any other IGERT activity over the past two years.

2. We conducted two round table discussions during the meeting. “The Emerging Fields in Bio-Applications Research of Membranes” round table addressed the opportunities and growth areas in membrane research and development from both broad and very targeted perspectives. Speakers voiced their opinions with regard to niche areas for exploration in both the short and long term. The second round table on “Future Career Opportunities” expanded on this theme. Issues with regard to funding and national need were discussed including challenges that young investigators could face as they seek careers in this field. The IGERT trainees particularly enjoyed not only the unique challenges faced by those from industry and academia and government labs, but the importance of preparation and training to position them to enter this field upon graduation.

The final two features of the symposium that should be mentioned were the luncheon and the poster session. IGERT trainees were specifically encouraged to meet those speakers with whom they would like to ask questions and to sit by them during lunch. This informal setting permitted the trainees to get to know these experts and to ask research and career-related questions. The poster session and reception at the end of the meeting was even more valuable. All trainees prepared posters related to their IGERT dissertation research. Trainees from the University of Kentucky were asked to do the same. Speakers and other participants circulated among all of the posters in the hallways of the hotel (see attached image) where trainees could more fully explain and defend their research projects. As a result, one of our IGERT trainees who will be coming to the IGERT competition at the end of May (Andrew Breidenbach) will also be visiting one of the symposium speakers, Dr. Carl Simon, at NIST in Washington, DC. This meeting would not have been possible had we not held the symposium. Our IGERT trainees were particularly thankful for the opportunity to network broadly during the meeting.

Address Goals

The symposium addresses the primary NSF strategic goal of learning by cultivating a world-class, broadly inclusive science and engineering workforce and by expanding the scientific literacy of all citizens. Fundamental to this goal is the need to expose IGERT trainees to high quality science and engineering from a diverse group of experts. Our trainees had the opportunity to listen to excellent science and engineering presentations by regional and national experts from academia (UC, UK, University of Michigan, Ohio State University), industry (P&G, Ethicon Endo-Surgery) and government (NIST). The fact that PhD candidates in molecular biology were listening to engineers working in membrane reactors for wastewater treatment and electrofluidics and PhD candidates in engineering were learning about drug delivery across the blood-brain barrier broadens their knowledge base and improves their communication skills with a wide array of future colleagues. These trainees routinely attend narrow conferences in their sub-fields but they really enjoyed the exposure to work performed outside their fields. The high quality of these presentations and the caliber of presenters further enhanced their experience.

This activity had a secondary but very important effect on discovery. Our symposium served as a platform to “advance the frontiers of knowledge” by “opening the greatest opportunity and potential benefit” and “establishing the Nation as a global leader in fundamental transformational science and engineering.” Not only did leading experts in biomembrane research convey their knowledge to trainees closely aligned with their specialties, but also seeded new ideas in the minds of those working outside of these fields. Our trainees remarked how valuable these diverse presentations were, providing new strategies and methodologies that could be applied to their work as well. Equally important were the questions that were raised following the individual lectures and the round table discussions. Students in different fields asked questions of the speakers that were unconventional and that sparked vigorous discussion and later one-on-one interactions. These types of symposia are invaluable for cross-fertilization and idea generation. IGERT was the mechanism by which these discoveries occurred. Transformational discoveries require that scientists and engineers move outside their comfort zones and become exposed to widely different perspectives to truly solve complex and multidisciplinary problems with a common language base.