Graduate Student Profile

Students from the top engineering programs around the world seek out Penn's Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Graduate Program for both its excellence and its broad opportunities.  Ph.D. students draw on Penn's multifaceted research environment which may include cross-disciplinary collaboration with research groups across the University, including the Medical School, Materials Science, Physics, Bioengineering, Chemistry, and many more.  The full resources of this Ivy League University together with the cultural and athletic opportunities of the City of Philadelphia make Penn CBE a prime choice to pursue a chemical and biomolecular engineering advanced degree.

Nathan D. Bade, Ph.D. Student, Kathleen Stebe Research Group

Throughout my time in school, science and math classes were always my favorites. I have always enjoyed the problem solving aspects of these subjects and found that engineering was a perfect fit for me. As an undergraduate student at the Colorado School of Mines, I became passionate about chemical engineering. The fundamental skill set I developed there provided me with the ability to tackle a wide range of problems in the lab, where I spent three years characterizing biopolymers and building photovoltaic devices. I also developed an interest in biology, which I hoped to pursue further.

I enjoyed laboratory research so much that I decided to continue my studies as a graduate student. I chose to come to Penn because of how tightly knit and engaged the CBE community was. I noticed that all of the students and faculty knew each other and were excited to share ideas with each other. The highly interactive environment promoted collaborations on numerous impactful and creative research projects.

After admiring the fruitful collaborations in the department, I managed to land in one myself under the guidance of Professor Kate Stebe.  My primary project aims to understand how the cells in our bodies sense and respond to the geometry of our tissues. For example, we want to understand how cells that make up our blood vessels interpret and align with respect to the curvature of the vessels. From Professor Stebe and my co-advisor, Professor Randy Kamien, I have learned how the fundamental principles of soft matter physics can be applied to and help us understand how cells respond to curvature cues. My third co-advisor, Professor Rick Assoian, is an expert in how cells interact with their environment and has taught me an enormous amount about the molecular mechanisms that cells use to detect the geometry of their surroundings. I think Penn is one of the few institutions in the world in which experts in interfacial phenomena, soft matter physics, and cell mechanobiology could be brought together to tackle such a complex problem.