ChBE Seminar Series - 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday September 1 - Yan Li

Wed Sep 1 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm

NOTE: Even though this event is virtual, coffee and snacks will precede the event at 3 p.m. on the BioE Quad. It can be viewed as in a group setting in College of Computing 16.

Yan Li, Associate Professor, Florida A&M/Florida State College of Engineering

"Engineering Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Organoids to Study Neurological Disorders"

WebEx Link: (pass: ChBE2021)


Restricted access to human brain tissues limits the discovery of novel interventions and pharmacological treatments for millions of people with neurological disorders.  Recently, human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) emerge as promising sources to generate allogeneic or patient-specific neural cells, microtissues, and organoids that provide novel in vitro models for drug discovery and disease modeling.  Our study constructed 3-D embryonic brain-like spheroid models from hiPSCs which can generate cortical glutamatergic neurons (forebrain) and motor neurons (hindbrain/spinal cord) by tuning the sonic hedgehog signaling.  Moreover, these different neuronal populations exhibited differential responses to different biomolecules.  Then, neural patterning of hiPSCs into forebrain cortical fate was performed in a suspension bioreactor to generate cortical spheroids from hiPSCs.  Bioreactor culture was found to promote the expression of deep cortical layer VI markers, and accelerate the expression of superficial cortical layer II-IV markers that appear later according to “inside-out” developmental pattern.  Derivation of brain spheroids from patient-specific hiPSCs was also performed.  In order to introduce the vasculature, the brain spheroids were co-cultured with isogenic endothelial cells (also microglia) and human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (mimic pericyte function) to reveal the influence of heterotypic cell-cell function.  The influence of Wnt pathway on brain tissue patterning was also investigated.  Overall, our research will benefit bioengineering applications and biomanufacturing (e.g., novel microcarriers), leading to better drug screening and disease modeling systems for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.


Dr. Yan Li is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, at Florida State University.  She has about 20 years of experiences in industry and academy on pluripotent stem cell research and technology development.  Dr. Yan Li received her B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from Tsinghua University in 1995 and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from The Ohio State University in 2002.  At The Ohio State University, Dr. Yan Li received numerous awards including Presidential Fellowship and Graduate Student Alumni Research Award.  From 2002 to 2011, Dr. Yan Li worked at Geron Corporation, the world leader in pluripotent stem cell technology, on human embryonic stem cell-derived therapies as Development Scientist, Scientist II, Senior Scientist, and Principal Scientist. Majority of her pioneering work at Geron were unpublished due to the company’s policy of confidentiality. 

In 2011, Dr. Yan Li joined the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at Florida State University.  Her research focuses on the fundamental understanding of stem cell microenvironment in multicellular aggregate structures and biomaterials-based approach to modulate aggregate composition and microenvironment.  The goal is to understand the biochemical and biophysical regulation factors during tissue morphogenesis to provide neural tissue models for neurological disease study and drug screening.  Dr. Li received numerous grants from National Science Foundation (NSF) (5), National Institutes of Health (NIH) (4), and Florida Department of Health (FLDOH) (2).  She is an awardee of the prestigious NSF CAREER award (2017) and Florida State University Developing Scholar award (2021).  Dr. Li is a panelist for 4-5 NSF programs, a member for several NIH study sections, and the reviewer for more than 45 journals.  Dr. Li has more than 90 peer-reviewed publications and >130 presentations primarily from Florida State University.  


Paul J.A. Kenis is the Elio E. Tarika endowed Chair, a Professor, and he serves the Head of the department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  He is also an investigator in the International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research between Kyushu University in Japan and UIUC.  He received his BS degree in chemistry from Nijmegen Radboud University and his PhD degree in chemical engineering at the University of Twente, both in the Netherlands, after which he was a postdoc at Harvard University.

Kenis, author of over 200 publications and 14 patents, has been recognized with a 3M young faculty award, a NSF CAREER award, a Xerox award, the ECS Energy Technology Division research award, and he has been elected a Fellow of the ECS.  He is also a coauthor of reports on the prospects of CO2 utilization at scale issued by the US National Academies as well as the global Mission Innovation consortium.  

At Illinois Kenis develops microchemical systems with a range of applications including fuel cells, CO2 electrolysis, protein / pharmaceutical crystallization, and cell biology studies.  His current research efforts include (i) continuous flow discovery and synthesis optimization of nanomaterials such as quantum dots for optical applications and (ii) co-electrolysis processes for sustainable chemical manufacturing.  The latter pursues suitable catalysts, electrodes, and electrolyzer designs, determining suitable operation conditions, and performing techno-economic and life-cycle analyses to guide the development of electrolysis systems that use renewable feedstocks such as CO2 and biomass processing adducts for future sustainable (low/no carbon emitting) chemical manufacturing.