Principal Investigator

James L. McGrath, Ph.D. University of Rochester work Box 270168 Rochester NY 14627-0168 office: Goergen Hall 306 p (585) 273-5489 f (585) 273-4746

Honors & News

  • October 6, 2016

    Professor McGrath receives Dean's Office PumpPrimer II Grant

    Professor Jim McGrath recently received a Dean's Office PumpPrimer II Grant for his research project titled, "Desalinization with Ultrathin Nafion Membranes.

    Project description: The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report has consistently ranked access to water as one of the most critical issues facing the planet. Arid and drought-strikes regions with ready access to sea water in California, Israel, India, Australia, and elsewhere are investing billions in the production of inefficient reverse osmosis (RO)-based desalinization plants to produce drinkable water. Increasingly, technologists are turning to nanotechnology as a means of reducing costs by fundamental changing the fundamental principles at work. This project will test a prediction that ultrathin (100 nm thick) Nafion® membranes have the potential for desalinization with orders-of-magnitude greater efficiency than conventional reverse-osmosis (RO). This prediction is based on unexpected findings of a rate of osmotic flux of pure water across ultrathin Nafion® membranes used as eletroosomostic pumps.

  • May 18, 2016

    Karl Smith places third in University’s Falling Walls Competition

    Karl Smith, a PhD student in Biophysics and a member of the lab of James McGrath, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, won third place in the University of Rochester's Falling Walls Competition for describing his use of physics to make water behind a filter form a mixer vortex, reducing the difficulty of normal stirring when fluids stick to surfaces. A total of 19 presenters competed.

    The competition is associated with the Falling Walls foundation, a non-profit organization that fosters discussions on research and innovation and promotes the latest scientific findings to society. The Rochester winner's idea will compete with others from around the world at the Falling Walls Lab Finale in November in Berlin. This event selects the participants for the annual Falling Walls Conference the following day: an international forum for science and innovation to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. Speakers at the conference have included Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany; Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse; and young inventors from around the world. BBC London said it was where the brightest minds on the planet meet.

    Last year's Falling Walls Lab Rochester winner, Ryan Trombetta, a BME PhD student in Dr. Awad's lab, finished 12th (out off a 100 finalists worldwide) in the Berlin competition for his description of using 3D printed bone grafts to treat osteomyelitis. See his presentation here.

    Solomon Abiola, Sara Nowacki and Karl Smith, the top three finishers at the Falling Walls Competition.

    From left to right, Solomon Abiola, Sara Nowacki and Karl Smith, the top three finishers at the Falling Walls Competition.

  • February 3, 2015

    Grant Will Help Move UR Innovations From Bench-Top to Bedside

    BME Professor Jim McGrath has received I-Corps funding for his project entitled Portable Hemodialysis which aims to develop a portable hemodialysis system for acute renal replacement therapy that clears toxins at rates required for human treatments. The McGrath lab will develop a multichip dialysis prototype that clears urea (acute kidney failure) and ammonia (acute liver failure) from blood at a rate (10 mL/min) typical of standard dialysis machines.

    The NSF I-Corps program gave us an opportunity to investigate the commercial viability of our ideas for wearable hemodialysis by talking to 100 potential ‘customers.' These customers included patients, doctors, caregivers, dialysis center and hospital administrators, first responders, engineers, social workers and more. The experience transformed our understanding of hemodialysis, how it is administered, and where the technology needs actually are. We've used the iCorps experience to write highly informed and focused grant proposals to the NIH that we hope will enable us to translate our technology and actually improve the life of patients with end stage renal failure, said McGrath.

  • January 14, 2015

    Professor Awad and Professor McGrath Inducted into AIMBE College of Fellows

    Department of Biomedical Engineering Professors Dr. Hani Awad and Dr. James McGrath were recently inducted as American Institute for Medical and Biological Engieering (AIMBE) Fellows for their significant contributions to the biomedical engineering community.

    AIMBE's College of Fellows includes around 1,500 individuals who have made significant contributions to the medical and biological engineering community whether in academia, industry, or government and their contributions to research, industry practice, and education have transformed the world.

  • January 13, 2014

    SimPore and Micropen Announced as Winners of CEIS 2013-2014 STAR Program

    The Center for Emerging & Innovative Sciences (CEIS) has announced SimPore and Micropen Technologies as the winners of the 2013-2014 Short Term Applied Research (STAR) program. The STAR program focuses on New York State small businesses to address and solve time critical science and business problems.

    SimPore is a Rochester, N.Y.–based nanotechnology company co-founded by James McGrath, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Graduate Program Director of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Rochester. SimPore designs and produces membranes and membrane-enabled products based on its unique patent-pending platform technology—the NanoBarrier™ ultrathin nanoporous silicon membrane. The NanoBarrier™ membrane is the world’s first membrane to offer both tunable nanometer-scale thickness and pore size. SiMPore is developing products that take advantage of these one-of-a-kind features, including filters for separating and concentrating biological molecules and nanoparticles, cell culture substrates for growing cells, and electron microscopy grids for preparing and imaging samples at the nanoscale. For more information please visit SimPore.

    Micropen Technologies is a design, development, and manufacturing resource and partner to electronics companies and medical device companies in the specialized technology of applying functional materials to surfaces.

    Micropen Technologies has collaborated with the University of Rochester for more than a year on medical balloons with ablation electrodes and temperature sensors that can precisely apply energy to deactivate or destroy targeted nerves. In particular, denervation of renal nerves holds great promise in treating patients with drug-resistant hypertension. The work started as a Senior Design Project in the Biomedical Engineering Department and has continued at the Center for Medical Technology & Innovation. The goal is to develop a universal printed balloon solution for denervation therapies applied anywhere in the body. For more information please visit Micropen Technologies.

  • October 28, 2013

    Super-Thin Membranes Clear the Way for Chip-Sized Pumps

    A microfluidic bioreactor consists of two chambers separated by a nanoporous silicon membrane. It allows for flow-based assays using minimal amounts of reagent. The ultra-thin silicon membrane provides an excellent mimic of biological barrier properties.

    The ability to shrink laboratory-scale processes to automated chip-sized systems would revolutionize biotechnology and medicine. For example, inexpensive and highly portable devices that process blood samples to detect biological agents such as anthrax are needed by the U.S. military and for homeland security efforts. One of the challenges of lab-on-a-chip technology is the need for miniaturized pumps to move solutions through micro-channels. Electroosmotic pumps (EOPs), devices in which fluids appear to magically move through porous media in the presence of an electric field, are ideal because they can be readily miniaturized. EOPs, however, require bulky, external power sources, which defeats the concept of portability. But a super-thin silicon membrane developed at the University of Rochester could now make it possible to drastically shrink the power source, paving the way for diagnostic devices the size of a credit card.

    Up until now, electroosmotic pumps have had to operate at a very high voltage - about 10 kilovolts, said James McGrath, associate professor of biomedical engineering. Our device works in the range of one-quarter of a volt, which means it can be integrated into devices and powered with small batteries.

    McGrath's research paper is being published this week by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • May 22, 2013

    BME Alumni Jess Snyder leads her team to International Victory!

    The University of Rochester women's team beat out the others, completing the 3.5-mile course of Corporate Challenge Championship in a combined 1 hour, 24 minutes and 41 seconds. UR's Jessica Snyder (running the course in 20 minutes, 19 seconds) led Sarah Loerch, Kristina Maletz, and Christina deVries across the finish line.

    It was the first time Rochester hosted the international championships; 10,921 runners registered for the regular race, which took place at the same time and venue as the championships.

  • January 3, 2013

    UR, RIT Researchers Face New Pressure to Commercialize Work

    When University of Rochester scientist James McGrath started his career, doing research that would lead to marketable products was not a priority.

    But the landscape has changed dramatically. Government funding for research has been stagnant for several years. Public and private grants now come with greater demands for results that can help drive profits and economic development.

    Some venture capital firms are investing less in small early-stage projects. Pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers have switched from in-house research to working with universities and other institutions. Partnerships between university researchers and industry have grown.

  • January 2, 2013

    Reasearchers Working on Dialysis Machine Small Enough to Hold in Your Hand

    Imagine a dialysis machine small enough that a patient could wear it. A super-thin filtering material may allow researchers at the University of Rochester to revolutionize dialysis for patients with kidney disease. Jim McGrath, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Rochester, says the thinner the membrane that blood passes through, the more efficient its filtering capacity.

    McGrath says the material they're working with filters blood more efficiently, and could end up in a much smaller device that could fit on an arm band. We can basically replace the experience of going to a dialysis center three times a week with nightly dialysis at home with a device that's about the size of a cell phone and achieve the same sort of clearance level. This is actually like a clinic on a chip, he said.

  • November 12, 2012

    Super-Thin Membranes Used in Lab-on-a-Chip Diagnostic Devices


    4" wafer with 160 membranes. (Photo by SiMPore Inc.)

    Nano-porous silicon membranes developed at the University of Rochester's Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will soon be used to manufacture portable devices that can analyze DNA in remote settings.

    A $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will fund a partnership among Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, James McGrath, SiMPore, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Integrated Nanotechnologies (INT) to fabricate the devices.

  • September 24, 2012

    Dr. Jim McGrath Receives $900,000 in NSF Grants

    Biomedical Engineering associate professor, Jim McGrath, Ph.D. has just received some important grants to develop new applications for the super-thin, nanoporous silicon membranes that have been developed at the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences. A nearly $600,000 National Science Foundation grant will partner McGrath's lab, SiMPore (the University-based startup that manufactures the membranes), RIT, and Integrated Nanotechnologies (INT), another local startup. They'll be using the membranes as filters in a portable INT device that can analyze DNA extracted from a drop of blood. This can be used to diagnose disease or detect pathogens, in the field, in a matter of minutes. They'll then miniaturize all of this onto a lab-on-a-chip (LOC).

    Another $300,000 from NSF will fund McGrath's ongoing research to modify the membranes for additional uses; a $100,000 grant continuation from the Coulter Foundation will fund McGrath's efforts to develop a blood dialysis device, using a silicon membrane, that would be small enough to wear on a belt. Imagine what a godsend that would be, if people could remain mobile and active while undergoing continuous dialysis, instead of sitting four hours a day, three days a week in dialysis centers!

  • August 30, 2011

    Dr. James McGrath Receives Coulter Foundation Grant

    Professors James McGrath, Ph.D. (Biomedical Engineering) and Jeremy Taylor, M.D. (Nephrology) were recently awarded a Coulter Foundation grant to develop a wearable hemodialysis system using a breakthrough silicon nanomembrane technology originally developed at the University of Rochester. Taking advantage of the extraordinary permeability and selectivity of the nanomembranes, the team hopes to eventually replace clinic-based hemodialysis with a much smaller continuous dialysis system that allows patients to remain mobile. As clinical dialysis requires hours of immobilization during dialysis and fluctuations in toxin levels that cause side effects, a continuous wearable system would provide dramatic improvement in patient lifestyle.

  • August 26, 2011

    Integrated Nanosystems Center Opens Today

    U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter will join UR President Joel Seligman, Hajim School Dean Rob Clark, and Department of Physics and Astronomy Chair Nicholas Bigelow today for the opening of the Integrated Nanosystems Center. A news conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in Munnerlyn Atrium, Goergen Hall. The facility brings together the disciplines of physics, optics, chemistry, biomedicine, and bioengineering to enable research in the fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology.

  • April 20, 2011

    BME Student Kelli Summers Receives Fulbright Grant

    BME student Kelli Summers presenting her research at this year's undergraduate symposium.

    Congratulations to BME undergraduate student Kelli Summers, who has been selected as a 2011-2012 Fulbright Scholar to conduct research on Implementing a Strategy to Combat Child Pneumonia Fatalities in Ghanaian Rural Hospitals.

    Kelli will leave for Malawi at the end of May to learn about conducting anthropological research and begin her Fulbright research. She will then travel to St. Francis Xavier Hospital in Assin Foso, Ghana for her Fulbright year and will collaborate with a physician she met during a volunteer experience in 2009. She hopes to create modifications to the World Health Organization's Child Lung Health Program (CLHP) through the use of a focus group and then implement it in the Children's Ward to ultimately decrease the child mortality rate at St. Francis and provide a model for other hospitals in the area.

    Her research builds upon the CLHP, which contains protocols to assess and treat childhood pneumonia in developing countries in an effort to decrease the child mortality rate. After conducting extensive literary research, Kelli believes three major problems of the CLHP prevail:

    • Disconnect between the policy-makers and the hospital staff implementing the program
    • Lack of cultural specificity in nurse education and expectations for patient receptiveness
    • Lack of diagnostic technology - specifically pulse oximeters

    Kelli has been the immediate past president of the Student Chapter of BMES, and has been involved with BMES since she was a freshman. As co-founder and co-President of UR Genocide Intervention, Kelli helped to raise awareness, advocate to local politicians, raise money for victims, and secure scholarships for Sudanese students to come to the University of Rochester through Banaa. Additionally, Kelli has been tutoring local refugee high school and middle school kids every Saturday for the past year and a half. It's been interesting interacting with them, said Kelli about the kids, It's incredible to see how much they've grown in such a short time. Kelli has also been working in Professor McGrath's Laboratory since her sophomore year conducting research under an NIH grant on Mechanisms Underlying Collective Cell Migration in Vitro. She won the Presidential Research Award this year and is currently working on a peer-reviewed paper as the primary author to submit to the Annals of Biomedical Engineering.

  • April 15, 2011

    Students and Faculty Recognized at the Undergraduate Research Symposium

    BME professor Laurel Carney, Ph.D. (with Kelli Summers, and Benjamin Freedman) was recognized by the Student Association as the Engineering Professor of the Year.

    Congratulations to the RCBU and BME students whose work was recognized at the prestigious annual University of Rochester Undergraduate Research Exposition 2011. Undergraduate students from RCBU and BME research laboratories participated in the symposium. BME undergrads Benjamin Freedman '11 and Kelli Summers '11 were both invited to speak at the Engineering and Applied Sciences Symposium Talks.

    Freedman discussed his work, What is Q-Angle really measuring? A novel alternative to predict patellar maltracking, which received the Dean's Award. Summers spoke about her research with Dr. James McGrath, Mechanisms Underlying Collective Cell Migration in Vitro, which was recognized by President Seligman with the President's Award. Aaron Zakrzewski (ME '11), mentored by Mechanical Engineering Professor Sheryl Gracewski, gave an oral presentation of his research titled Natural frequency of bubbles within rigid and compliant tubes. Aaron also received a Deans' Award for Undergraduate Research in Engineering and Applied Sciences for his presentation. In addition, five of the seven poster exhibitions from the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences were by BME students:

    Molly Boutin (Benoit Lab) BME '11
    A Polymeric Delivery System to Induce Differentiation in hMSCs
    Jasmine Carvalho (Dalecki Lab) BME '11
    Investigations of Ultrasound Parameters to Promote Spatial Organization of Cells in Three-Dimensional Engineered Tissues
    Vlabhav Kakkad (McAleavey Lab) BME '12
    Experimental Implementation of Shear Wave Induced Phase Encoding Imaging
    Angela Ketterer (Carney Lab) BME '12
    Design and Implementation of a Behavioral Apparatus for Auditory Research in Birds
    Hannah Watkins (Benoit Lab) BME '11
    Novel Parthenolide Delivery System for Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment
    (Received the Professor's Choice Award)
  • January 6, 2010

    Members of the BME Graduate Program Vie for Top Place in the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship

    Representing UR in the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship will be Jessica Snyder (left and far right in inset photo) and (from left in inset photo) Luke Mortensen, Christina Devries and Chris Hiner.

    Jessica Snyder, a biophysics graduate student and member of Jim McGrath's biomedical engineering lab, credits her work as an elite cross-country skier in helping her become the third place female finisher in the Rochester Chase Corporate Challenge last May, which contributed to the University of Rochester (UR) team's win of the mixed team title. The four-member team will now travel to Johannesburg, South Africa for the Championship in March.

    Joining Jessica will be Luke Mortensen, a graduate student in Biomedical Engineering; Chris Hine, a graduate student in biochemistry and biophysics; and Christina Devries, a technical associate at the Center for Human Genetics and Molecular Pediatric Disease.

  • April 1, 2009

    Tom Gaborski takes lab-to-market as VP of Life Sciences at SiMPore Inc.

    Recent Ph.D. graduate Tom Gaborski is realizing his dream of entrepreneurship as VP of Life Sciences at UR spinoff, SiMPore, Inc. Tom helped found SiMPore Inc. in 2007 while he was a graduate student in the Ph.D. program. The company actually grew out of a chance experiment conducted by Tom and Chris Striemer, who was then a Ph.D. candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Chris had inadvertently made the world's thinnest nanoporous membrane while developing new materials for silicon-based lasers. Tom and Chris designed and conducted experiments to test if the nanoscale pores could be used to separate proteins of different sizes and charges and discovered that they did so very efficiently. The commercial potential of this discovery was immediately obvious to Tom.

    Along with their advisors, Chris and Tom founded SiMPore to commercialize the discovery. The company now employs 9 people and started selling membranes in January of 2009. Sales have been steadily increasing as advertising efforts payoff and global interest in the material grows. Tom wears many hats in the small start-up but his primary job is to lead the company in its development of products for the biological sciences. Under Tom's leadership, devices for protein and DNA purification are already in the SiMPore product pipeline.

  • January 21, 2009

    New Commercial Application of University Technology Provides Superior Imaging at the Nanoscale

    SiMPore Inc., a company commercializing nanotechnology invented at the University of Rochester, has developed an ultra-thin microscope slide that significantly improves high-resolution imaging of nanoscale materials such as proteins, viruses, and carbon nanotubes. This is the first commercial application of a unique nanomembrane initially reported in Nature in 2007.

  • August 11, 2008

    Nano Spin-Off Company Wins Business Plan Challenge

    SiMPore, Inc., a spin-off company founded by engineers on River Campus, recently won the Golden Horseshoe Business Challenge, a $100,000 prize recognizing its business plan as the best in a region encompassing western New York and eastern Ontario.SiMPore also attracted $1.25 million in investments financed primarily by local Rochester high net worth individuals. In addition to VP of Life Sciences Tom Gaborski, (BME Ph.D. 2008), this venture involves interactions with numerous BME faculty members and students.

  • April 15, 2008

    University of Rochester Awarded $473,000 to Work with SiMPore, Inc.

    On April 1, 2008 UR/SiMPore, Inc. began a NYSTAR-sponsored collaboration to commercialize pnc-Si membranes. The Technology Transfer Incentive Program (TTIP) award was one of only 2 University-based technologies supported by NYSTAR this year. Specifically, University of Rochester was awarded $473,000 to work with SiMPore to use previously developed porous-silicon ultra filtration technology in biochemical separation.

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