About Us


For biology and microscopy issues, contact Tim O’Brien at obrien@email.unc.edu.

For software issues, contact Joe Hsiao at phsiao@cs.unc.edu.

Professor Richard Superfine, Director
Dept of Physics and Astronomy
Phone: 919-962-1185

Professor Klaus Hahn, Co-Director
Department of Pharmacology
Phone: 919 843-2775

Associate Professor Marc Niethammer
Dept of Computer Science
Phone: 919-843-7449

Research Assistant Professor Timothy O’Brien
Biology Specialist
Phone: 919-843-2798

Research Professor Michael Falvo
Dept of Physics & Astronomy
Phone: 919-962-9346


Come use our facilities!


Post Docs:

Jeremy Cribb
Phone: 919-962-4852

Thermal diffusion as well as driven particle microrheology inform us about the material properties of polymer systems at small length and time scales. My engineering project in the group has been to manage and develop our force microscope into a microscale rheometer while validating it against known macroscale rheology measurements. For novel research, of particular interest to me are the viscoelastic properties of soft biopolymer solutions such as DNA and mucus. DNA solutions, initially considered a “simple” biopolymer system, are used for reasons of greater solution homogeneity and predictable linear viscoelastic response. We’ve found that, at the microscale, these reasons are mostly justified but at times can yield more complex behavior. Measuring the viscoelastic properties of mucus at micron-sized length scales has much more significant clinical implications, where the clearance of mucus from the lung is paramount to its sterility. These measurements are more challenging, however, due to the multiple polymer components, and active degradation that lend to the overall heterogeneity of the system.

Research Scientists:

Joe Ping-Lin Hsiao
phone: 919-962-1895

My work includes developing and maintaing a visualization software package that renders 3D volumes and surfaces, developing new software features for our hight throughput microscope (Panoptes), and an image-database visualization software.

Graduate Students:

Robert Judith

Dept of Physics and Astronomy
Phone: 919-962-8481

My research focuses on microactuators, both manmade and biological. I work on the development of  biomimetic cilia, magnetically actuatable microrods, to measure fluid properties. Specifically, I am interested in using the biomimetic cilia to diagnose clotting disorders in trauma patients. I am also interested in understanding how eukaryotic cilia function.

Kellie Beicker

Dept of Physics and Astronomy
Phone: 919-962-4889



Suzy Lynch
Dept of Biochemistry
Phone: 919-962-8481

Luke Osborne
Dept of Physics and Astronomy
Phone: 919-962-4852

Ryan Schubert

I am doing research on video-based bead and poletip autofinding for the high throughput
microscope (Multiscope) project. I also do work on realtime video based 3d bead tracking
using image analysis focus measures.

Nadira Williams
Dept of Physics and Astronomy
Phone: 919-962-8481

Jerome Carpenter
Dept of Applied Science and Engineering
Phone: 919-962-8481

I design and build bioreactors to mimic the forces that human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs) experience in vivo. My designs explore the relationship between cyclical strain, shear-stress and mucociliary clearance.

Kris Ford
Dept of Biomedical Engineering
Phone: 919-962-4852
I study the use of paramagnetic nanoparticles for gene delivery and the application of magnetic fields to achieve transfection. I examine the effects of oscillating fields on the uptake of these nanoparticles and the intracellular pathways that are affected. I also study the forces involved in intracellular molecular motor transport. With the introduction of 1 micron paramagnetic microspheres into the cytosol, I exert forces on the microsphere with a 3-Dimensional Force Microscope (3DFM), probing the mechanics of the intracellular environment.

Brian Eastwood

I am developing image analysis techniques for analyzing motion in video microscopy.  One of the challenges in video microscopy is analyzing how different layers of the specimen contribute to an image.  The goal of my research is to form consistent models of layer composition and motion from image sequences.  This research ties into the CISMM Video Motion Extraction project.

Briana Fiser

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Physics, High Point University

I am currently developing new materials for the fabrication of arrays of magnetically actuable biomimetic cilia. Biomimetic cilia are flexible microrods (750nm in diameter and 25 microns tall) that generate fluid flows similar to those generated by biological cilia.

Nathan Hudson

Current Position: Post Doc Fellow,  Springer Laboratory, Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School; Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston

At UNC, I worked on discovering the molecular basis for the mechanical properties of fibrin fibers, networks and sheets.  Fibrin forms the structural backbone of blood clots.  Individual fibrin fibers have remarkable mechanical properties including the ability to strain up to 330% without failing.  The molecular basis of this extensibility is not yet fully understood.  In addition, fibrin networks are known to strain stiffen, but the origins of this phenomenon is not known.  We showed that the origin of these properties is best explained by a rubber-like elasticity stemming from an interconnected network of alpha-C regions within the fiber.  Additionally, we showed that strain stiffening acts as a network strengthening mechanism by offloading strain unto other fibers under lower mechanical stress.

Lamar Mair

Research description: I grow aspect-ratio defined magnetic micro- and nano-rods and wires using a technique known as templated electrodeposition. I study how their dimensions affect their ability to move through Matrigel, an extracellular matrix (ECM) mimic, under an applied magnetic field. Increasing the efficacy of transport through the ECM may enable researchers to better design the shapes of nanoparticles used in magnetic drug delivery.

Adam Shields

Current Position: NRC post-doctoral fellow,  Center for Bio/Molecular Science & Engineering, Naval Research Lab

At UNC, I assisted in the development of a fabrication process for magnetically actuated nanorod arrays that act as biomimetic cilia.  These structures are composed of a novel soft polymer- magnetic nanoparticle composite which is magnetic yet retains the polymer’s flexibility. By actuating the array with externally applied magnets we demonstrated that by mimicking the beat of embryonic nodal cilia we could simultaneously generate well-defined regions of fluid transport (above the cilia tips) and mixing (below).  The primary objective of the project was to utilize these structures as a platform for elucidating the fluid dynamics generated in biological cilia systems.  For example, the coexistence of these transport and mixing regimes could have implications for nodal cilia, which transiently exist in the embryos of all vertebrate species and generate fluid motion which is responsible for determining the left/right asymmetry of the vertebrate body plan.

Ricky Spero
I study the mechanical properties of fibrin clots, a biopolymer that helps stem blood flow. These studies primarily involve measurements of microbeads under thermal diffusion and magnetically applied forces. I am also helping to develop high throughput systems for microbead measurements.

Vinay S Swaminathan

Current Position: Post Doc Fellow,  Laboratory of Cell and Tissue Morphodynamics, NHLBI/NIH

At UNC and as a  part of CISMM, my interest was in understanding the role of mechanical forces and external physical cues in cellular functions. I used the magnetic tweezers systems(3DFM) to investigate the role of cell stiffness on cancer cell invasion and study the underlying mechanism of “mechanical regulation” in a cancer cell. In a separate study, I used the 3DFM system to investigate the mechanism of activation of the small GTPase RhoA in response to mechanical forces.

The cancer study was done in collaboration with K Mythreye and Gerry Blobe at Duke University and the RhoA study was done under the lead of Christophe Guilluy and Keith Burridge at UNC- Chapel Hill.

Undergraduate Alumni

Igal Bucay
Dept of Physics and Astronomy, Dept of Mathematics
Phone: 919-962-4889

Kyle Pridgen
Dept of Chemistry
Phone: 919-962-4889

Lauren Scheetz
Dept of Biology
Phone: 919-962-4852

Adam Turner
Dept of Chemistry
Phone: 919-962-3296

Department of Pharmacology