As one of our initial trainees, Collin Kaufman joined the program as a third-year graduate student January 1, 2018 and is expected to graduate in 2021. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience with a focus on neuroengineering, neuromuscular junctions, and neurodevelopment. He received a B.S. in bioengineering at the University of Maryland, College Park with a minor in neuroscience. His research focuses on the engineering of a 3D-spinal cord/skeletal muscle bioactuator with potential for both basic science and translative applications.
Kaufman published some of his research on the “Emergence of functional neuromuscular junctions in an engineered, multicellular spinal cord-muscle bioactuator” in APL Bioengineering in 2020. This article was covered in several news media worldwide. He has presented his research and given lectures at multiple venues, including the Research Live! Competition in the Illinois Graduate College (in which he was a finalist, October 2018), the Beckman Institute Graduate Student Seminar (September 2018), and the Emergent Behavior of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS) Retreat and EBICS Summer School (August 2018 & July 2019). He has presented at the MBM Retreat (2018, 2019, 2020) and won awards for Best Lightning Talk (2018), Best Poster Presentation (2019), and Honorable Mention for a Lightning Talk (2019). He is being co-mentored by Dr. Martha Gillette and Dr. Rashid Bashir.
Kaufman participated in other trainee activities such as the Kickoff meeting, Summer Journal Club readings/discussion meetings, Frontiers in Miniature Brain Machinery lectures, and the MBM Retreats. He served as a member of the MBM Student Leadership Council (2019-2020), coordinated Summer Journal Club meetings (2019), and assisted with the MBM booth at the Beckman Open House in March 2019. In addition, he participated in public outreach by volunteering with science communication for the Neuroscience Department’s Brain Awareness Day in a leadership role April 7, 2018. He also mentored a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) student (Summer 2018).
Kaufman will soon have completed six semesters of the Special Topics in MBM course, plus coursework in cell and molecular neuroscience, integrative neuroscience, professional skills in neuroscience, and training in light sheet microscopy. He has collaborated with with Dr. Marni Boppart at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to establish a protocol for isolating extracellular vesicles from muscle-adjacent pericytes.
Biorobotics refers to the fabrication of hybrid machines that combine abiotic and biological components for a wide variety of possible functions. These may include the ability to sense their environment, process signals, and produce force. Recent work in the field of coordinated muscle contractions elicited by a single neural source has focused on developing a musculoskeletal biological machine that can produce motion in response to controllable external signaling. Here, we report the development of a novel array for the simultaneous innervation of multiple engineered muscle strips. This allows for the testing of different neuronal sources, such as a spinal cord. We investigate the development of primary skeletal muscle from the intact gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, dissociated and cultured satellite cells from those muscles, and lastly both innervated and non-innervated 3D, reconstructed, engineered muscle tissue. Bioengineered soft robots might be used to test disease models, create a “peripheral nervous system on a chip” device for testing drug safety and efficacy, and eventually forward-engineer life forms.