John Rogers, PhD
- Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Medicine and Simpson Querrey Institue resident
- And by courtesy Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry
A former material scientist, biomedical engineer John A. Rogers is not only driving the interface between engineering and medicine, but also converting scientific knowledge into translational technologies with broader societal significance.
Rogers’ research seeks to understand and leverage interesting characteristics of “soft” materials – such as polymers, liquid crystals and biological tissues – as well as hybrid combinations with unusual classes of micro- and nanomaterials. The aim is to control and induce novel electronic and photonic responses in these “soft” materials and develop new lithographic and biomimetic approaches for patterning them and guiding their growth.
As the founding director of the new Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics at Northwestern University, Rogers collaborates with the Feinberg School of Medicine and Lurie Children’s Hospital to use this academic science to produce classes of electronic devices that can bend, stretch and twist, be integrated with the human body with diverse diagnostic and therapeutic functions.
For example, Rogers has developed an ultra-thin silicon electronic “skin patch” that sticks to the skin and uses bio-markers in sweat as a diagnostic tool. The silicon establishes a water-tight seal at the interface with the skin, allowing introduction of sweat into a microfluidic system through small inlet ports in the backside. Among other applications, the device shows promise as a diabetes management and glucose monitoring wearable, a diagnostic tool for cystic fibrosis that doesn’t require electric stimulation of the patient, as well as a device that allows vital signs monitoring on premature babies without wires. Looking forward, Rogers hopes to be able to non-invasively extract other fluids from beneath the skin, such as blood and interstitial fluids, which would have major implications for diagnostic tools across all medical fields.
Rogers’ research also shows promise for the development of an implantable, bioresorbable electronic device that can be used to treat internal disease or injury with an engineering approach rather than a chemistry approach. Instead of taking a pill, which can’t treat a specific disease or body part without having additional effects on the rest of the body, the device will target and interface directly with the problematic region of the body to treat it.
For Rogers, curiosity plays a predominant role in his research. He strives to keep his portfolio untied to a certain medical domain, as he asserts that it is important to explore and discover on a broad scale in order to find translational opportunities that – in his case — have the potential to change the face of medical treatment.