Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Document Type



In the last few decades, the mechanical characteristics of human cells has been linked to many physiological processes and pathological conditions, illustrating the importance as effective biomarkers. Mounting research has shown the mechanical force between cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM) plays a vital role in cellular processes such as tissue homeostasis, wound healing, cancer metastasis, and the progression of various diseases. This mechanical force, or the force that a cell produces on its surroundings, is termed as the cellular traction force (CTF). Precise characterization of the CTF can expand our knowledge of these important cellular processes as well as lead to the development of novel mechanical biomarkers of various cellular disorders. Current methods to measure the CTF require special substrates and fluorescent microscopy, rendering them less suitable in a clinical setting.

This study details the development of a novel method to measure the CTF that is more affordable and accessible in a clinical setting than conventional approaches. The developed device, an ultrathin polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) cantilever, demonstrated a rapid and direct approach to measure the combined CTF of a large population of cells. The CTF of benign and aggressive breast cancer cell lines were measured. The device was then used to measure the CTF of NIH/3T3 fibroblasts while their cytoskeletal network was altered. In addition, the CTF and the dynamic contraction force of live rat cardiomyocytes were characterized. Lastly, the combination of the thin film PDMS cantilever and beating cardiomyocytes created a self-propelled swimming biorobot.



Committee Chair

Park, Kidong