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The EMBS Chapter of the IEEE Ottawa Section was recognized as the Best Ottawa Chapter in 2008, 2010, 2014, and 2019 and received the Outstanding Chapter Award from IEEE EMBS in 2011!

Engineering the mechanical properties of cells and tissues

Photo of Dr. Andrew R. Harris

Dr. Andrew R. Harris

Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Carleton University

September 26, 2022 9:30 - 10:30

Mackenzie Building, Room ME3380, Carleton University


Exposure to mechanical stresses is a normal part of physiology for cells and tissues. For example, intestinal epithelia are stretched during peristaltic movements in the gut, lung alveoli deform during breathing, and endothelia are exposed to pulsatile fluid shear stresses in blood flow. Consequently, maintaining mechanical properties that give cells and tissues a combination of strength and durability is critical for their proper function. This is most apparent in diseased states, where genetic mutations to cytoskeletal and intercellular adhesion proteins alter mechanical properties and result in phenomena associated with cell and tissue mechanical failure. In this talk, I will explore how new experimental tools for characterizing cell and tissue rheology at the millimeter and micron scale are providing new biophysical insights into this unique form of active matter. I will trace these properties to the nanometer scale, where I will present new work that has uncovered how proteins associated with the actin cytoskeleton dynamically organize in a mechanosensitive manner into distinct networks that underly cell and tissue mechanical properties. This combination of experimental tools and analytical techniques from engineering and the physical sciences, with classical molecular biology and biochemistry, is now poised to enable a fundamental understanding of cell mechanics that is rich in complex biophysical phenomena and will guide novel therapeutic strategies.


Andrew Harris joined the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering as an Assistant Professor in 2021. Andrew earned his Ph.D. at University College London working in Professor Guillaume Charras lab. His Ph.D. research focused on using precision tools such as Atomic Force Microscopy to characterize the mechanical properties of single cells and simple tissues. Intrigued by the origins of cell and tissue mechanics, Andrew joined Professor Daniel Fletcher’s lab at the University of California Berkeley as an EMBO and HFSP postdoctoral fellow.

His current research interests are focused on studying how subcellular networks of polymers and proteins endow cells and tissues with the mechanical characteristics that are critical to their physiological function. This interdisciplinary research involves developing new tools and techniques to measure cellular mechanical properties, with a view towards understanding the origins of disease and developing new therapeutic approaches.

Last updated August 30, 2022

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