Meet our New Assistant Professor Christopher Madl
After beginning his research career in materials chemistry, Christopher has come to exemplify the interdisciplinary nature of research at Penn MSE. He applies a multifaceted strategy, drawing on protein engineering, bioorthogonal chemistries, and stem cell biology, to understand how interactions between cells and their surrounding polymeric meshwork, the extracellular matrix, contribute to the loss of tissue function in aging and disease. His lab develops mimics of the extracellular matrix based on hydrogel materials with molecular precision that enables material properties to be dynamically tuned over space and time.
Christopher completed his undergraduate degree in Engineering Sciences and Chemistry at Harvard University. While at Harvard, he became passionate about applying his interests in materials chemistry to solve biomedical problems as a student in the laboratory of Professor David Mooney. Christopher moved to Stanford University to complete his PhD in Bioengineering, working with Professor Sarah Heilshorn. During his PhD, Christopher leveraged the well-defined properties of recombinant elastin-like proteins to selectively tune extracellular matrix stiffness and degradability independent of hydrogel microstructure, swelling, nutrient transport, and cell adhesive ligand concentration. This led to the unexpected observation that matrix degradation and remodeling are required for neural stem cells to maintain their stem cell phenotype and to subsequently differentiate into mature, functional neurons. Christopher also developed site-selective techniques for introducing bioorthogonal reaction partners into engineered protein materials to enable gentle encapsulation of numerous cell types, while retaining the ability to independently tune matrix properties.
For his postdoctoral training, Christopher decided to focus on deepening his background in stem cell biology, joining the laboratory of Professor Helen Blau at Stanford Medical School. As a postdoc, his research interests turned toward characterizing the interplay between extrinsic mechanical changes in the tissue microenvironment and intrinsic cellular defects in aging. He developed novel hydrogel systems that enable real-time tracking of individual cells as matrix stiffness is altered by user-selected, minimally invasive stimuli. He subsequently employed these dynamic hydrogels to determine how muscle stem cells sense changes in matrix mechanics and how the stiffened aged microenvironment contributes to stem cell dysfunction.
In his laboratory at Penn, Christopher is developing physiologically relevant 3D dynamic hydrogel platforms and organotypic cultures to better understand how functional assemblies of cells respond to progressive changes in the mechanical and biochemical properties of the cellular microenvironment during development, aging, and disease.
Christopher’s research group website can be located at https://madlbiomaterialslab.com/. Please contact him (email@example.com) if you are interested in developing new polymeric materials to understand the mechanobiology of aging and disease. We’re excited to welcome Christopher to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.