Rebecca Taylor’s research and teaching focus on design and advanced manufacturing across scales. Since 2016 her group has utilized structural nucleic acid nanotechnology to create nanoscale biosensors and actuators that can interface with condensed matter, as well as molecular and cellular biosystems. In addition, she is inspired by the heart, whose contractile function is derived from exquisite structure at the molecular level up through the tissue level. To enable the creation of dynamic, engineered systems with structure across multiple scales, her group employs self-assembly methods with structural DNA nanotechnology to augment and extend existing top-down microfabrication strategies. Her teaching centers on the fundamentals of mechanical design, as well as advanced topics in large-volume manufacturing, as well the emerging design and validation methodologies for structural DNA nanotechnology. In both my research and teaching, she investigates DNA as an engineering material, and she aims to equip her students with the tools to utilize self-assembly as a powerful tool for advanced manufacturing. Her research requires highly interdisciplinary groups of scientists and engineers, and, for this reason, her group collaborates with researchers in fields including chemistry, biomedical engineering, physics, developmental biology, and cardiovascular medicine.
Taylor’s research is focused in three primary domains: (1) DNA nanotechnology for molecular and cellular mechanobiology, (2) bio-inspired micro- and nanosystems and (3) advanced manufacturing.
Area 1. DNA nanotechnology for molecular and cellular mechanobiology. The application of atomic force microscopy and fluorescent molecular tension sensing in biomechanics has enabled the visualization and quantification of nanometer-scale displacements and piconewton-scale. Her group is leveraging the unique capabilities of structural DNA nanotechnology to create tools for measuring stress and strain in soft materials (supported by AFOSR YIP), investigating molecular and cellular mechanobiology of the endothelial cells lining the vasculature (collaboration with Xi Ren, BME) and platelets circulating in the blood (supported by an NIH R21 in collaboration with Marvin Slepian in BME and Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Arizona). They are also investigating novel approaches for targeting DNA nanostructures for drug delivery and gene therapy.
Area 2. Bio-inspired micro- and nanosystems. As engineers, her group is inspired by the robustness and programmability of nucleic acids, and they are interested to extend the capabilities of nucleic acid nanotechnology. A notable contribution from her lab is the creation of self-assembling nanofilaments from building blocks of a synthetic DNA mimic called gamma-modified peptide nucleic acid (gPNA). They demonstrated that unlike DNA-based nanostructures these structures form and remain stable in harsh environments like aprotic organic solvent mixtures. With the support of her NSF CAREER award, her team is investigating the use of gPNAs in the creation of bio-inspired materials for dynamic nanotechnology with unique bioorthogonality, solution stability and resistance to enzymatic degradation.
Area 3. Biomanufacturing and anomanufacturing. With Taylor’s background in product design, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), molecular reconstitution assays, and DNA origami, her work spans the macro-, micro-, and nanoscales. Building on this multidisciplinary foundation, her group is working to address the advanced manufacturing challenges that will enable the combination of both top-down engineering processes with bottom-up engineering processes. For example, they have recently shown that DNA-based nanostructures can serve as flexible connectors for microscale swimmer robots, whose locomotion and swimming speeds can be tuned by connector geometry and mechanics. They are using DNA origami as a bridging material for enhancing existing self-assembly processes and for facilitating next-generation nanoscale and microscale fabrication efforts. They are also developing and utilizing workforce training tools like voice assistants that can expedite the mastery of new skills in advanced manufacturing.
Safety First: DNA Armor Protects Regenerative Medicine
Building Medical Devices at the Nano and Micro Scales
Modern Manufacturing in Steeltown
2013 Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University
2013 Ph.D. Minor, Bioengineering, Stanford University
2010 MS, Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University
2001 BS, Department of Mechanical Engineering Degree with a Certificate in Robotics and Intelligent Systems, Princeton University
- advanced manufacturing
- advanced materials processing and manufacturing
- biomedical manufacturing
- devices and material manipulation
- manufacturing workforce
- medical device manufacturing
- medical devices
- medical robotics
- micro/nano manufacturing
Taylor featured in PittsburghInno
MechE’s Rebecca Taylor was featured in PittsburghInno for being named the first Ansys Career Development Chair in the College of Engineering. The Ansys endowment she received will go toward educating mechanical engineering students using Ansys software.
Five Engineering faculty receive professorships
ECE’s Yuejie Chi, MSE’s Marc De Graef, ECE’s Swarun Kumar, ECE’s Brandon Lucia, and MechE’s Rebecca Taylor recently received professorships in Engineering for their outstanding scholarly achievements.
Journal of Polymer Science
Taylor’s research featured in Women in Polymer Science Issue
MechE’s Rebecca Taylor was the corresponding author on collaborative research between the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Chemistry that was selected for the Women in Polymer Science Virtual Issue of the Journal of Polymer Science.
Collaboration shapes extracellular vesicle retention strategy
Phil Campbell and Charlie Ren present a strategy to spatially control extracellular vesicles and keep them resolute under controlled conditions.
3D printing giant nanotech models
Caleigh Goodwin-Schoen and Rebecca Taylor are designing more affordable ways to print colorful 3D models of biological nanostructures, like proteins and DNA.
Faculty projects awarded DURIP funding
Three College of Engineering faculty members have been selected to receive funding for their projects through the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP): Marc De Graef, Anthony Rollett, and Rebecca Taylor.
Roldan recognized as a 2021 HSF Scholar
MechE Ph.D. student D. Sebastian Arias Roldan was recognized as a 2021 Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) Scholar. He is developing a nano-scale DNA strain sensor capable of measuring sub-nanometer displacements as a member of the research team in Rebecca Taylor’s Microsystems and Mechanobiology Lab.
Florida News Times
Cagan and Taylor’s research on DNA origami featured
MechE’s Jonathan Cagan and Rebecca Taylor’s research on DNA origami was featured in Florida News Times.
Using DNA for tiny tech
Tito Babatunde and her advisors Rebecca Taylor and Jon Cagan are combining their expertise to optimize designs for DNA origami nanostructures.
Reassess, recalibrate, and transform
Mechanical Engineering students and faculty adapted with innovation and agility to finish the spring 2020 semester during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taylor featured on nanostructures
MechE’s Rebecca Taylor was featured in multiple sources including ScienceDaily, Nanowerk, ScienceCodex, and AzoNano, on her research on nanostructures.
Unlocking PNA’s superpowers
Rebecca Taylor and her research team have developed a method for self-assembling nanostructures with gamma-modified peptide nucleic acid, a synthetic mimic of DNA.