CHBE Seminar: Dr. Elisabeth Smela

Friday, September 29, 2023
11:00 a.m.
Room 2108 Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Building and Via Zoom
Patricia Lorenzana

Cell-Based Sensing for Artificial Olfaction

Abstract: An artificial or electronic nose (e-nose) for odor recognition has been a goal for many decades.  However, the primary and best means of odor identification in the field today are still dogs, rats, and humans.  Dogs can detect COVID, rats can find landmines, and humans can recognize wine vintages.  However, all require extensive individual training and none leave an electronic record.  A portable artificial nose would have applications in many fields, from food safety to security.  Biohybrid sensors are a promising approach, since they combine the ability of biological cells to detect odors with technology to record cell responses.  Biological odor sensing systems have unrivalled selectivity and sensitivity due to specific recognition and combinatorial coding.  However, application of such sensors has been hindered by the need to store the biological elements in a functional state prior to use, which has involved keeping the cells alive continuously.  We are conducting research to understand whether a new cell line that can be completely dried, similar to the way yeast is dried, could form the basis for a fieldable artificial nose.  These desiccatable cells were derived from an insect and have been engineered to express an olfactory receptor (OR) and a GCaMP reporter for Ca2+, so they give a fluorescence signal upon odorant binding.  The cells can be stored under a wide range of environmental conditions in the dry state before they are needed, and can be revived by the addition of liquid.  Our work is expanding knowledge about how to practically achieve artificial olfaction from multiple angles:  biology, hardware, and data interpretation

Bio: Elisabeth Smela is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland.  She received a BS in physics from MIT and a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.  Previously, Dr. Smela had worked as a research scientist in Linköping, Sweden and in Risø, Denmark before becoming Vice President of Research and Development at Santa Fe Science and Technology, NM.  Dr. Smela’s research interests are currently focused on polymeric and cell-based sensors and actuators.  She has served as Associate Dean for Faculty and Graduate Affairs, Equity Administrator, and Diversity Officer.  She spent a year as a Jefferson Science Fellow at the Department of State to establish the US-ASEAN Smart Cities Network.  She has recently been working with a group of engineering faculty to better integrate sustainability concepts throughout the curriculum.

Audience: Graduate  Faculty 

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