Welcome to the Engel Lab for Bio-Microsystems!

We are a new lab in the Technion Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. Our research focuses on two main themes:

  1. Bio-MEMS. We design novel microsystems-based tools that spatially and chemically control the cell microenvironment for quantitative biology.
  2. Cryo-EM of cells. We develop new technologies for molecular-scale imaging of cells with programmed cytoskeletal tension, traction stress distributions, and substrate topography.


Bio-MEMS. Using fabrication technologies originally developed for the integrated circuit industry, we can now work with a plethora of materials at the micro- and nano- scales. Incidentally, biological cells are on the order of micrometers (a millionth of a meter) and their sub-cellular constituents are on the order of nanometers (a billionth of a meter). Imagine the possibilities of designing and building custom cell microenvironments to investigate mechanical aspects of cellular function! Microfabricated microfluidic systems can further engineer the plumbing in the environment of cells cultured in tiny channels to allow for chemical control over the cell environment as well. In short, we extend Richard Feynman’s “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” concept to the culturing of biological cells.

Cryo-EM of cells. The ability of living cells to respond to mechanical cues from the microenvironment and other cells play vital roles in physiological processes such as embryonic development and cardiovascular function. Over the past decade, the field of mechanobiology has seen major advances catalyzed by increasingly powerful strategies to measure cell-generated forces and to identify mechanosensitive molecules and cellular components. However, we know comparatively little about the nanometer-scale organization of the mechanosensitive macromolecules and cellular components that underly the cell’s ability to generate and sense mechanical force. This is due principally to a lack of tools that can visualize cellular organization on the nanoscale. To fill this gap, Dr. Engel developed a technology during her postdoctoral studies to spatially control the cell microenvironment for cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) studies with the goal of elucidating the nanometer-scale underpinnings of mechanobiology. Our lab implements this technology together with traction force microscopy, and live-cell imaging to discover how physical cues are translated into the intracellular signals that control cell and tissue architecture. We aspire to contribute powerful new tools to mechanobiology and the burgeoning field of cellular cryo-EM. The subfield of cryo-EM we are interested in for imaging structures within the context of the cell is called cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET).

Interested in joining the team or collaborating? Please contact Leeya@technion.ac.il.