Bioengineering graduate student Ishita Jain receives the 2020 BMES Career Development Award


Huan Song

Illinois bioengineering graduate student Ishita Jain received the 2020 Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Career Development Award and will be presenting her research at this year's annual meeting. She is one out of three recipients to be recognized for her high potential in the biomedical engineering field from the department this year along with graduate student Maha Alafeef and postdoctoral researcher Indrajit Srivastava

“This award motivates me to further pursue my passion for science and engineering and participate in cutting-edge research at the University of Illinois," she said.  "Moreover, it gives me an opportunity to expand my network and interact with excellent mentors and researchers gaining invaluable knowledge to become a scientific leader."

Her graduate advisor bioengineering professor and the Associate Head of Graduate Programs Gregory Underhill said, "Ishita’s recent and continuing research efforts have led to a number of exciting discoveries related to how liver cells function in the settings of liver development and liver disease.”

She works in the Tissue Development and Engineering Laboratory led by Underhill. Jain said, "Our lab works extensively on understanding the cross-talk between cellular microenvironment and their behavior using high throughput cellular microarray technology."

Jain's BMES presentation will be on her work with "Microenvironmental arrays and computational modelling to delineate the co-operative effect of notch signaling and biomechanical cues in patterned liver differentiation."

Her research is centered on engineering controlled microenvironments to understand how the microenvironment influences the liver cells. One focus is understanding liver progenitor cell differentiation into hepatocytes and biliary cells.  Jain said, "previous work in our lab has shown the importance of micro-environmental factors such as substrate stiffness, extracellular matrix, Notch signaling and TGFb signaling. In a paper which I am a co-author on, we demonstrated patterned differentiation on circular multicellular islands."

To augment the in vitro system, she also developed a computational model to better understand and simulate how the microenvironmental factors affect Notch signaling in liver differentiation. Jain employs various techniques to recapitulate the liver microenvironment along with imaging and computational techniques, which she uses to study liver development.

Her talk would be available as an on-demand presentation in the session Stem Cell Engineering II and she will be available for a live chat and Q&A on October 15th 9:00-10:00 am EST during BMES 2020 Annual Meeting

Before coming to Illinois, Jain received a bachelor’s in technology in the department of biological sciences and bioengineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, one of the premier engineering institutes in India. 

"I have been interested in the wonders of biological systems ever since I can remember," she said.  "During my undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to get to explore my research interests in synthetic biology, tissue engineering and stem cell biology. Thankfully, that experience led me to join Dr. Underhill’s lab where I could work on developing high throughput bioengineered systems to answer the most basic questions in human tissue development." 

Jain also has a strong interest in mentoring the next generation of scientists including five undergraduate students in her lab throughout her time at Illinois. She served as a teaching assistant (TA) in the department and received the department's Teacher Excellence Award in 2018. She is also an active mentor for high school students through programs like SpHEREs and Skype a Scientist

"Ishita has all of the qualities to grow as a leader in the field of bioengineering, and I believe this developmental award is a perfect fit for her," said Underhill. 

Jain said, "I would like to thank my advisor Dr. Gregory Underhill, for supporting and guiding me at every step of my journey, my amazing labmates and family for constantly motivating me to be better each day."