Padma Rajagopalan, PhD

Padma Rajagopalan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Padma Rajagopalan joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at Virginia Tech in January 2007 and is a professor. She also holds appointments in the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences (SBES), in the Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute (MII) and in the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Prior to joining Virginia Tech, she was the PC Rossin Endowed Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Lehigh University.

Prior to joining the faculty at Lehigh, Dr. Rajagopalan was a research associate at the Center for Engineering in Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rajagopalan earned her bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India and obtained her Ph.D. from Brown University. In 2007, she was the Chair of the Women’s Initiative Committee at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

Dr. Rajagopalan’s research focuses on the design and development of in vitro three-dimensional tissue constructs. Current research projects in her group include the design of multi-layered hepatic and corneal cellular constructs, the design of biocompatible elastin-like polypeptides, and the fabrication of biomimetic surfaces with nanoscale porosity and topography.

The Design of Liver-mimetic Cellular Architectures: The successful design of tissue-engineered organs can be accelerated if model tissue constructs that mimic the structure in vivo are available to probe cellular response to a variety of cues. The design of tissue-engineered livers and liver-support devices can be accelerated if model three-dimensional (3-D) tissue mimics are available to systematically test responses to a range of stimuli. There is currently no generally applicable methodology to layer liver cells in vitro. A major thrust in Dr. Rajagopalan’s research is the design of in vitro 3-D cellular architectures that mimic several aspects of liver architecture found in vivo. These cellular constructs are comprised of alternating layers of hepatocytes and endothelial cells separated by a nanoscale, biocompatible and biodegradable polyelectrolyte scaffold. An important aspect of these studies is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the systems biology of these cellular architectures. The goal of an ongoing collaboration with Professor T.M. Murali (Department of Computer Science, Virginia Tech) is to integrate diverse types of data generated by tissue engineering experiments into large-scale genome-wide models of circuits that represent how engineered tissues respond to external conditions.

Biomimetic Surfaces for Corneal Tissue Engineering: A leading cause of blindness in the world is corneal opacity that arises due to several complications such as corneal dryness, diabetes and injuries sustained by the cornea. Tissue engineered corneas must incorporate the multiple cell types found in the cornea that are supported on substrata that exhibit the complex porosity and topography found in vivo. The basal membrane that supports corneal epithelial cells is composed of extracellular matrix proteins that exhibit topography on the nanoscale with the diameters of pores and fibers ranging from 20-200nm. In an ongoing collaboration with Professor Michael Rubner (Department of Materials Science and Engineering, MIT), biomimetic basement membranes based upon polyelectrolytes that exhibit nanoscale porosity and topography are being tested as substrata that can support corneal cells. The ability to control and tune porosity on polyelectrolyte assemblies makes such surfaces an attractive choice in understanding how cells respond to differences in porosity and topography.

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Institute for Regenerative Medicine

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