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Introducing Dr. Frances Ligler

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Dr. Frances Ligler is new to the College of Engineering at NC State, but she's far from being a novice. A pioneer in the fields of biosensors and microfluidics, Ligler's seminal concepts in biosensing and transfer to industrial products, including the development of detection systems for biological agents, led to being elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2005. She was recognized with the Presidential Rank Awards of Distinguished Senior Professional and of Meritorious Senior Professional in 2003 and 2012, respectively.

Recently, Ligler was named the inaugural Lampe Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at NC State – home to the National Science Foundation ASSIST Engineering Research Center and bioengineering initiatives in multiple departments. She brings 28 years of experience gained at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, as Senior Scientist for Biosensors and Biomaterials. Ligler holds patents that have led to 11 commercial biosensor products – devices that use biological materials to monitor the presence of chemicals in a substance.

Currently Ligler is working to rebuild an organ system in three dimensions to learn more about how the component cells develop and function.

Her research – body-on-chip applications in microfluidic systems – fits well with the tissue regeneration work happening at NC State. The colleges of Engineering, Textiles and Veterinary Medicine, as well the university's Joint Biomedical Engineering Department with UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Medicine, are working in the innovative field. Researchers in the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering are also involved.

The well-established interdepartmental relationships were selling points for Ligler, who envisions expanding the collaboration across the colleges.

“Work with biosensors and biomaterials is very interdisciplinary,” Ligler said. “Anyone has the potential to jump between fields – from chemistry to engineering – and have ideas to create high-impact products.”

Ligler hopes to work with a team of faculty and students during the lab-to-market process. As biosensors become smaller and more user-friendly, she would like to see the devices created more efficiently and at lower costs. The combination of biomaterials and nanotechnology will open new opportunities for tissue regeneration and analytical methods.

“I've seen incredible inventions by undergraduates in the bioengineering area,” Ligler said. “I'm at the give-back stage of my career, and I'm excited to help others grow.”

Ligler holds a D. Phil. in biochemistry and a higher doctorate, the D.Sc., for her contributions to the field of biosensors, all from Oxford University.end of story

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