Samuel Ginn College of Engineering
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Elizabeth Lipke
Elizabeth Lipke

Elizabeth Lipke, assistant professor in Auburn University’s Department of Chemical Engineering, has received a $400,000 grant through the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Faculty Early CAREER Development Program award for her research designing engineered cardiac tissue and developing cardiac regeneration techniques.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States each year for both men and women," says Lipke. "Through regenerative engineering we can improve the ability to repair damaged or diseased hearts, and provide patients the opportunity for both a longer and potentially better quality of life."

Her project, "Injectable Biomimetic Scaffolds to Direct Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocyte Differentiation," includes designing injectable biomaterial scaffolds, which are templates for cell attachment and tissue formation. They are being used to improve electrophysiological integration, an essential aspect of cardiac regeneration. Lipke’s team hopes to better understand the mechanisms by which biomimetic materials — those which have been designed to elicit a specific cellular response — can drive electrophysiological maturation of stem cells into the contracting cells of cardiac muscle called cardiomyocytes.

Lipke’s research could offer improvements to tissue engineering strategies and provide insights to fundamental fields such as transport phenomena, electrical signal processing and developmental biology. As part of her CAREER plan, Lipke’s interdisciplinary research will also include inviting health educators, such as cardiac nursing students, to her lab to learn about cardiac regeneration research.

Outside the lab, Lipke’s team will continue mentoring undergraduate researchers and partner with Auburn’s Youth Experience in Science, or YES, camps and Getting Under the Surface, or GUTS, programs to expand opportunities for K-12 students to foster their interest in science and engineering careers.

"We are proud that Dr. Lipke’s cutting-edge work at the frontier of biomedical and regenerative engineering science has been recognized through this highly prestigious award from the National Science Foundation," says Christopher B. Roberts, dean of Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. "The award distinguishes not only Dr. Lipke’s exceptional and groundbreaking work, but it also illustrates the trajectory of our outstanding faculty, and the contributions we endeavor to make as a college."

Lipke joined the Auburn faculty in 2008. She earned her doctorate in chemical engineering from Rice University in 2005 and received a bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in 2000. Lipke is the department’s third CAREER award recipient, following Mario Eden, Joe T. and Billie Carole McMillan professor and chair of chemical engineering, and Virginia Davis, Sanders associate professor of chemical engineering, who received CAREER awards in 2006 and 2009, respectively.