My research and engineering projects

Research

I'm interested in how the mechanical interactions between cells, tissues, and their environment affect cell behavior - be it how the stiffness of a tissue affects how the cells in it might respond to drugs if they are cancerous or diseased, or how they differentiate if they are stem cells. In my postdoctoral work in the Sethu Lab at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, my research is focused on building in vitro systems to investigate cardiac and vasculature disease and development in the context of mechanical cues such as pressure, strain, flow, and shear.

During my PhD work, as a member of the Underhill Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, I focused on the differentiation of liver progenitor cells into hepatocytes, which make up most of the live, and bile duct cells. The development of the well defined liver structure during embryonic development is temporally and spatially orchestrated through a host of signals including mechanical forces. To explore these, I engineer 2D and 3D multicellular culture systems to control the microenvironment using microfabrication techniques. I use tools such as traction force microscopy, confocal microscopy, automated image analysis, and finite element modeling to analyze and understand these systems.

Publications:

Berg, I., Mohagheghianb, E., Wang, N., Underhill, G., Microtissue geometry and cell-generated forces drive patterning of liver progenitor cell differentiation in 3D Advanced Healthcare Materials 2021, 2100223. https://doi.org/10.1002/adhm.202100223

Berg, I., Underhill, G., High Throughput Traction Force Microscopy for Multicellular Islands on Combinatorial Microarrays Bio Protoc. 2019 Nov 5; 9(21): e3418

Kaylan, K., Berg, I., Biehl, M., Brougham-Cook, A., Jamil, S., Sargent, L., Cornell, N., Raetzman, L., Underhill, G. Spatial patterning of liver progenitor cell differentiation mediated by cellular contractility and Notch signaling eLife 2018 vol:7, e38536

Long, K., Woodburn, E., Berg, I., Chen, V., Scott, W., Measurement of filtration efficiencies of healthcare and consumer materials using modified respirator fit tester setup PLOS ONE 2020, doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0240499


Conference Abstracts:

Berg, I., Nguyen, K., Hecking, J., Kannappan, R., Cheng, X., Giridharan, G., Sethu, P. Development an in vitro system to investigate the impact of pulsatility on endothelial von Willebrand factor. Oral presentation at ASAIO Annual Conference

Nguyen, K., Hecking, J., Berg, I., Kannappan, R., Cheng, X., Giridharan, G., Sethu, P. Angiopoietin-2 and von Willebrand Factor are Sensitive Biomarkers of Pulsatility for Restoration of Pulsatility in Patients on Continuous Flow Ventricular Assist Devices (CF-VADs). Oral Presentation at ASAIO Annual Conference.

Berg, I., Underhill, G., Microtissue geometry and cell-generated forces drive patterning of liver progenitor cell differentiation in 3D, Poster Presentation at Mechanobiology Institute Morphogenesis 2020 Conference, Singapore (virtual), October 2020

Berg, I., Underhill, G., Microtissue geometry and cell-generated forces drive patterning of liver progenitor cell differentiation in 3D, Oral Presentation at Mechanobiology Institute Young Scientist Symposium, Singapore (virtual), October 2020

Berg, I., Underhill, G. Controlled Incorporation of Non-parenchymal Cells in Engineered 3D Liver Microtissues Drives Patterning of Progenitor Cell Differentiation Oral Presentation at Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting, Virtual, October 2020

Berg, I., Underhill, G. Effects of Geometry and Cell Derived Forces on Liver Progenitor Cell Differentiation in 3D Microtissues. Oral Presentation at Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, October 2019

Gentile, S., Berg, I., Underhill, G. Geometrically Controlled 3D Tumor Cell Aggregates to Analyze Drug-Microenvironment Interactions Poster at Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, October 2019

Berg, I., Underhill, G. Spatially Defined 3D Microtissue Arrays for Investigating the Effects of Tissue Microenvironment on Stem Cell Differentiation. Poster Presented at Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA, October 2018

Berg, I., Underhill, G. Spatially Defined 3D Microtissue Arrays for Investigating Microenvironment Impact on Liver Progenitor Cell Differentiation. Poster Presented at MechBio 2018, Irving CA, July 2018

Kaylan, K., Berg, I., Underhill, G. (2017, October) Notch Signaling Coordinates with Cell Contractility to Drive Biliary Differentiation of Liver Progenitor Cells. BMES Annual Meeting, Phoenix, AZ, October 2017.


Honors/awards:

Basic and Translational Science in Heart Failure T32 Postdoctoral Fellow, 2021-2023

Mavis Future Faculty Fellowship, 2020-2021

Tissue Microenvironment (TiME) NIH T32 Training Fellowship Trainee, 2018 – 2020

Bioengineering Teaching Fellowship, 2016

Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering T & AM Merit Award, 2012

Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering John C. and Elizabeth J. Chato Award in Bioengineering, 2010


Engineering Projects

Brooklyn Bridge to Cambodia Human Powered Pump

Outside of the lab, I'm always looking for ways to put my engineering education and experience to good use. As an undergraduate senior, in partnership with the NGO Brooklyn Bridge to Cambodia, I spent a month in Cambodia working with local engineers to develop a novel dual chamber, single-piston treadle pump, which was eventually patented. In between construction and testing, I also learned how the languages of engineering and creativity are universal and cross-cultural. The organization has continued to flourish, and now has a number of novel engineering solutions developed by its team of engineers, winning multiple international awards for their innovation and resourcefulness.

Filtration Efficiency Testing for Mask and Resirpatpor materials

When the pandemic interrupted normal research activities, I collaborated with a group of clinicians and medical students a low-cost conversion of existing hospital equipment to measure filtration efficiencies of alternative mask materials. This testing setup can approximate the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) testing process and we propose possible alternative materials that can achieve filtration efficiencies close to that of N95 respirators in a healthcare setting. The findings are published in PLOS ONE.