Engineered Cellular Microenvironments Lab


The overall goal of the Engineered Cellular Microenvironments (ECM) Lab is to understand how intercellular interactions and mechanical stimulation impact cellular phenotypes in carcinogenesis and homeostasis of tissue specific cells, by creating and utilizing specific engineered microenvironments. Our group’s research focuses on various implications of biochemical intercellular interactions (cell-cell or cell-matrix interactions) and mechanical stimuli (via matrix stiffness and applied mechanical forces such as tension, compression and shear stress), in pathophysiology (ovarian and breast cancer carcinogenesis) and homeostasis.

Mechanical forces as well as intercellular interactions play a critical role in the regulation of cellular function (such as growth, differentiation, migration, gene expression, protein synthesis, apoptosis) under normal physiological, as well as, pathophysiological conditions on multiple scales. Defining specific mechanisms by which these biochemical and mechanical cues are sensed by cells and how these stimuli lead to specific cellular responses is likely to help elucidate the intricacies of stem cell function, cancer progression, and to design better materials for cell and tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Our group believes that these goals can be met by creating engineered microenvironments based on novel biomaterials and microfluidic technologies. The novelty of our approach is in the integration of physiologically relevant in vitro tissue engineering based biomaterial platforms with in vivo animal models to gain multiscale molecular-, cellular- and tissue-level understanding of cell-cell or cell-matrix interactions and mechanical stimuli mediated biological events.

Latest News

Recent Publications

January 2024 - Katie attends the BMES CMBE Conference in San Juan.

December 2023 - Congratulations Raneem on becoming a PhD candidate!

December 2023 - Welcome Vatsala to the ECM lab!

November 2022 - Surfaces with instant and persistent antimicrobial efficacy against bacteria and SARS-CoV-2

July 2022 - Injectible three-dimensional tumor microenvironments to study mechanobiology in ovarian cancer

             Core Values of the ECM Lab

ECM Lab Philosophy 

The ECM Lab holds the conviction that a diverse and inclusive environment for all can only be achieved through the collective dedication and active engagement of each member. We affirm that individuals thrive best in an atmosphere where they are esteemed individually, their ideas acknowledged, and their distinct viewpoints honored. A culture fostering a sense of belonging for everyone stands as our most formidable asset in nurturing our intellectual and creative endeavors.

ECM Lab Mission Statement 

The ECM Lab believes that it is only a diverse and inclusive multidisciplinary research culture that enables lab members to work to their highest potential, advance our scientific objectives, and develop the next generation of innovators, engineers, scientists, and leaders.

All are Welcome Here

The ECM Lab and its members are dedicated to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for individuals from diverse backgrounds, irrespective of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability status, socioeconomic background, or any other aspect. Furthermore, we are committed to leveraging our voices and privilege to advocate for scientists from all backgrounds and to promote constructive change.

Acknowledging that individuals from various backgrounds have encountered unequal obstacles and have been historically marginalized in the sciences, particularly African-Americans, we actively encourage individuals from underrepresented groups to consider applying for positions within our lab, regardless of their career stage.

The ECM Lab Has a Strong Commitment to Promoting Diversity, Equity, Justice, and Inclusion

The ECM Lab is dedicated to advancing our culture of diversity and inclusion through various initiatives. We engage in discussions about our statement and philosophy with each new group member, ensuring alignment with our values and objectives. Additionally, we hold yearly group conversations where we revisit our ECM Lab statement, philosophy, and objectives, fostering a sense of shared purpose and commitment among lab members. We continuously strive to synchronize our endeavors with global concerns, and we will convene regular discussions within the lab to revise our mission and ascertain the most effective means to accomplish it. Moreover, we empower lab members by equipping them with specific response and intervention strategies to address events and behaviors that are inconsistent with our mission. Furthermore, we provide resources to assist lab members with challenges related to climate or research progress, ensuring a supportive environment for all.

We aim to cultivate a supportive atmosphere where upcoming scientists and, on a larger scale, members of society can flourish. We understand that the lab's most far-reaching influence may come from the individuals we mentor and their subsequent contributions to education and research.

In our pursuit to enhance our research and its broader impact, we prioritize collaboration and mentorship through weekly group discussions. These sessions serve as platforms for knowledge exchange and skill development among lab members. Furthermore, we conduct yearly evaluations focusing on research innovation and accomplishments, as well as the climate that nurtures them. Additionally, we organize regular group writing sessions aimed at refining our communication skills, enabling us to effectively disseminate our research findings and ideas to broader audiences.

As part of our commitment to building the research community around us, we actively engage in leadership roles within the MSE and BME departments, College of Engineering, and at the University of Michigan, and contribute to Diversity, Equity, Justice and Inclusion efforts. Moreover, we create an environment conducive to the success of visiting high school and undergraduate students, K-12 teachers, providing mentorship and support for their academic and professional growth. Additionally, we prioritize the development of collaboration and communication networks spanning the scientific diversity at the University of Michigan, fostering interdisciplinary exchanges and partnerships that enrich our research endeavors.

Mentorship in the ECM Lab

Dr. Geeta Mehta's approach to mentoring is flexible and tailored to the individual needs of each mentee or student, recognizing that these needs may evolve over time. Regular communication serves as a cornerstone of her mentoring strategy, with scheduled weekly meetings established with each mentee or student. The duration and intensity of these meetings vary depending on the student's stage of development and current requirements. While some students may only need brief check-ins lasting a few minutes (more senior PhD students), others may require more extensive guidance and support (newer graduate students), often spanning several hours. Overall, she characterizes her mentoring style as hands-off yet readily available, ensuring that students feel supported and empowered to navigate their academic journey. She aims to maintain an optimal balance between mentorship and supervision for all members. Within the lab, we have many peer-mentors and research-mentors, in order to encourage group learning. This collaborative approach allows for a supportive environment students and researchers at different stages of their academic and professional development can learn from and enables them to support one another.