Research Project Overview

William’s first Organ Chip experiment

William is working under Prof. Noo Li Jeon in the Multiscale Biomedical Engineering Laboratory (MBEL), which focuses on Organ-on-a-Chip (Organ Chip) technology. Organ Chips represent a new paradigm in cell culturing, wherein complex organ tissue is grown in microfluidic chips as opposed to simple cells in conventional petri dishes. These lab-grown Organ Chips could enable faster, cheaper, and more humane drug testing avenues by reducing the need for animal testing. Typically, the cells are delivered into the MBEL Organ Chips via a biomaterial liquid containing the cells. The liquid later turns into a gel to hold them within the chip, and provide support for the growing tissue. However, due to the quick gelling speed of the material, scientists have very little time to inject the cells into the chip, thus creating a major issue for scalable manufacturing. William’s research centers around developing a new biomaterial formulation with a longer gelation period, while still maintaining high-performance tissue growth capabilities.

Exploring Seoul

In addition to participating in exciting research, the IRiKA program has allowed William to explore the rich culture that Korea has to offer. Luckily for him, he has also had the good fortune to meet up with several a couple local guides who happen to be old friends. William’s friend Judy did a year of foreign exchange at his high school several years ago and is now a student at Sung Kyun Kwang University (SKKU), which was founded in 1398, making it the oldest university in East Asia. The campus housed several tall modern buildings with a great view of the city. However, many of the oldest and historic buildings remain preserved for people to view.

William with his friend Judy at SKKU

In addition to wandering around the campus, William got to taste “Bibimbap”, a rice dish mixed with meat and vegetables, and “Nurungji”, a Korean dish featuring rice that has become crispy from being grilled on a cast iron griddle. He was also introduced for the first time to a board game café and “Noraebang” (Korean karaoke). He highly recommends trying out both of these popular pass times if you ever visit Korea!

Left: Spicy Bibimbap (bottom) and Fish Egg Nurungji (top) for lunch
Right: William’s trying out Noraebang for the first time

Traditional Korean food with Prof. Jungil Choi

Coincidentally Dr. Jungil Choi, a former labmate from William’s research group at Northwestern, is now a professor at Kookmin University and lives very close to William’s IRiKA provided accommodations. They were able to reunite for the first time in several months and catch up over a traditional Korean meal of “Ssam”, which consists of slices of boiled pork belly wrapped with leafy vegetables of your choice.

Many new adventures are in store for the coming weeks featuring more friends, and of course more delicious food!