My research is in the area of advanced neurotechnology especially for scientific applications. Mapping the nervous system is incredibly challenging and exciting. To contribute to this field, innovation can come in many forms including reduced tissue reactivity, improved electrical performance, or improved mechanical properties. The size of the sensor does matter, and it is important to make cellular-sized device dimensions to keep neurons close to the sensor. Photolithographic techniques and microfabrication is one important option for creating new tools.
Regarding electrical performance, the students I co-advise are continuing research in new materials and new processes to ensure the highest insulation of passive and active components. We are also designing new circuit architectures to enable higher density, low-noise front-end amplification. And the mechanical properties must be optimized for the application at hand. We are developing ultra-flexible surface sensor arrays, stretchable surface arrays, and stiff but ultra-fine penetrating arrays.
A particular challenge with mapping the peripheral nervous system is a lack of high-fidelity nerve interfaces. NIH SPARC has recently announced our funding award to develop high-density and ultrafine microneedles. We have a great team including the Chestek Lab, the Bruns Lab, and the Yoon Lab.
Euisik Yoon and I are leading several projects under the Brain Initiative focused on high-density optoelectrodes. IPAN, for example, is an international collaboration with other leading neurotechnologists that will co-develop a new generation of neural probe platforms. If you are an undergraduate looking for an international summer research experience, please apply!
Another NSF program, NeuroNex, recently announced our award to develop a technology hub called Multimodal Integrated NeurTechnology or MINT. Please checkout our website and join as a MINT User if the dissemination of this technology can benefit your neuroscience research. The focus is the dissemination and demonstration of optoelectrodes, carbon fibers, juxtacellular-extracellular, nanofractal electrode coatings, Brainbow, systemic AAV delivery, and tissue clearing.
To accomplish these goals, my research and that of the students I advise use MEMS, integrated circuits, new fabrication methods, and novel packaging in our sensor and actuator systems. We are building amazing technology at University of Michigan in the greater effort to map the nervous system.
We are always interested in talking to students and researchers who want to contribute to this cross-disciplinary research!