Singh 1


From India to UT to Assistant Professor at Cornell University's Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for nearly one of every four deaths. As a master's student at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay studying lipid-based particles for cancer treatment, Ankur Singh was inspired to continue researching cancer by pursuing a PhD in biomedical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin.

The University of Texas at Austin was a natural choice for Singh. While in India, he researched the leading faculty and was impressed with professors Nicholas Peppas, Krishnendu Roy (currently at Georgia Tech), and Christine Schmidt (currently at the University of Florida). UT Austin was also the choice of other classmates, including his fiancée Shalu Suri, who left India to work on her Ph.D. with Christine Schmidt a year before Singh joined her.

He began working with Dr. Krish Roy on developing vaccines to treat infections and lymphoma. One of Singh's first research projects involved working on an injectable biomaterial vaccine for Hepatitis B. He created a new approach to simultaneously deliver DNA vaccine along with immune modulating RNA, using synthetic polymer- based formulations.

After getting married, having a little girl, and graduating, Singh continued work in personalized medicine during his postdoctoral research at Georgia Tech. His exposure to stem cells in Roy's lab sparked his interest in personalized medicine with applications in tissue engineering and immunology. At Georgia Tech, Singh began working with Prof. Andrés García on human induced pluripotent stem (hiPS) cells. Singh's research involved taking human skin cells and manipulating the genes in them to create  pluripotent stem cells (embryonic-like) and understanding how cell adhesion mechanics changed during this conversion. He used microfluidics to develop a label-free system for sorting the half converted stem cells (called partially reprogrammed) from the true stem cells.

Singh published a paper in Nature Methods in early 2013 based on his work at Georgia Tech. His research and the paper have been highlighted by many scientists, including National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, who mentioned it in his blog.

"The paper was about first understanding cell mechanics and second developing a technology to sort the fully reprogrammed stem cells from partially reprogrammed skin/stem cells," says Singh. "This research has the promise to be applied broadly in many other areas of tissue engineering and cancer biology."

Singh's research in understanding stem cell mechanics and interest in immune engineering has helped him find a place at Cornell University. He is currently an assistant professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, where he juggles between teaching, writing grants, and directing the "Immunotherapy and Cell Engineering Lab."

"When I began working on my PhD, I didn't know yet if I if I should go into industry or academia," he says. "At UT, I was able to make the decision that I wanted to be in academia where I could generate my own ideas, and I learned how to manage a lab by observing Professors Roy, Peppas, and Schmidt."