Julie C. Liu

Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering (by courtesy)

FRNY 1160
Purdue University
Davidson School of Chemical Engineering
Forney Hall of Chemical Engineering
480 Stadium Mall Drive
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2100
(765) 494-1935 (office)
(765) 494-0805 (fax)
Joined Purdue in 2008
B.S.E., Princeton University, 2000
M.S., California Institute of Technology, 2002
Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, 2006
Post-Doctoral Research Associate, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 2007

Research Interests

Prof. Liu's research focuses on developing protein-based biomaterials for application in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Protein-based biomaterials offer a number of technological advantages. First, the biological information content can be varied while keeping physical and chemical properties constant. Second, due to the modular nature of recombinant proteins, both mechanical and bioactive cues can be easily altered, which facilitates studies to explore the effect of physical properties and different ligands on cell response. Last, recombinant proteins allow for exquisite control over molecular weight, amino acid sequence, and, subsequently, secondary structure. Prof. Liu has developed a family of recombinant proteins that incorporate structural repeats to confer mechanical properties and bioactive domains to elicit the desired cell response. To fully utilize these proteins in tissue engineering applications, her research has investigated the relationship between amino acid sequence and subsequent function.

Because of the precise structural control of protein-based biomaterials, Prof. Liu is using these materials to facilitate tissue engineering studies to control cell response through the local microenvironment. Tissue engineering aims to replace diseased or damaged tissues or organs by combining biomaterials, cells, and bioactive factors. Adult stem cells are a promising cell source for tissue engineering because of their ease of harvest, their high proliferation capacity, and their ability to differentiate into many different cell types. Many studies have already established the effects of soluble chemical cues on stem cell differentiation in vitro. Because of the precise structural control of protein-based biomaterials, Prof. Liu's research focuses on delineating the material-based cues (biochemical and biophysical) that promote differentiation of a specific cell fate.

Our specific interests include:

Development of Protein-based Biomaterials

The Liu research group has engineered a family of protein-based biomaterials that incorporates mechanical domains, crosslinking sites, and bioactive domains. We have incorporated mechanical domains based on sequences derived from resilin and abductin and have investigated how to tune protein properties for use in diverse tissue engineering applications. Specifically, we demonstrated that cell adhesion and lower critical solution behavior can be manipulated through control of the amino acid sequence.

Material-based Cues for Skeletal Engineering

We are elucidating the chemical and physical cues that promote either bone or cartilage differentiation of adult stem cells. We demonstrated that a soluble peptide based on bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) is a useful tool for cartilage engineering. We produced a modular protein that contains this BMP-2 peptide and are currently investigating the effect of these protein-based materials on bone or cartilage differentiation.

Tunable Microenvironments for Endothelial Differentiation

We are characterizing the ability of biochemical cues or physical properties to promote differentiation of adult stem cells into arterial or venous endothelial cells. We have manufactured a protein-based biomaterial containing a VEGF-based peptide. We are currently probing the effects of these material-based cues on endothelial differentiation.

Research Group

Graduate Students

  • Sydney Hollingshead
  • Claire Kilmer
  • Charng-yu Lin
  • Celina Twitchell
  • Nelda Vazquez-Portalatin

Undergraduate Researchers

  • Zain Clapacs
  • Yupeng Zhuo

Awards and Honors

American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant, 2012
3M Non-tenured Faculty Grant, 2011
National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2007
Whitaker Foundation Fellowship in Biomedical Engineering, 2000-2005
Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, 1999

Selected Publications

Google Scholar



B.-H. Cha, S.R. Sin, J. Leijten, Y.-C. Li, S. Singh, J.C. Liu, N. Annabi, R. Abdi, M.R. Dokmeci, N.E. Vrana, A.M. Ghaemmaghami, A. Khademhosseini*, "Integrin-mediated Interactions Control Macrophage Polarization in 3D Hydrogels," Advanced Healthcare Materials, doi: 10.1002/adhm.201700289, (2017).

S. Hollingshead, C.-Y. Lin, and J.C. Liu, “Designing Smart Materials with Recombinant Proteins,” Macromolecular Bioscience, 17, 1600554 (2017).

M.J. Brennan, B.F. Kilbride, J.J. Wilker, and J.C. Liu, “A Bioinspired Elastin-based Protein for a Cytocompatible Underwater Adhesive,” Biomaterials, 124, 116-125 (2017).

Y. Kim and J.C. Liu, “Protein-engineered Microenvironments Can Promote Endothelial Differentiation of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells in the Absence of Exogenous Growth Factors,” Biomaterials Science, 4, 1761-1772 (2016).

M.M. Alvarez†, J.C. Liu†, G. Trujillo-de Santiago, B.-H. Cha, A. Vishwakarma, A. Ghaemmaghami, and A. Khademhosseini, “Delivery Strategies to Control Inflammatory Response: Modulating M1-M2 Polarization in Tissue Engineering Applications,” Journal of Controlled Release, 240, 349-363 (2016). †These authors contributed equally.

N. Vazquez-Portalatin†, C.E. Kilmer†, A. Panitch, and J.C. Liu, “Characterization of Collagen Type I and II Blended Hydrogels for Articular Cartilage Tissue Engineering,” Biomacromolecules, 17, 3145-3152 (2016). †These authors contributed equally.

Y. Kim, E.E. Gill, and J.C. Liu, “Enzymatic Crosslinking of Resilin-based Proteins for Vascular Tissue Engineering Applications,” Biomacromolecules, 17, 2530-2539 (2016).

C.-Y. Lin and J.C. Liu, “Modular Protein Domains: An Engineering Approach Toward Functional Biomaterials,” Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 40, 56-63 (2016).

M.J. Brennan, H.J. Meredith, C.L. Jenkins, J.J. Wilker, and J.C. Liu, “Cytocompatibility Studies of a Biomimetic Copolymer with Simplified Structure and High-strength Adhesion,” Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, 104A, 983-990 (2016). (Impact Factor: 3.3, Times Cited: 2)

Y. Kim, J.N. Renner, and J.C. Liu, “Incorporating the BMP-2 Peptide in Genetically-engineered Biomaterials Accelerates Osteogenic Differentiation,” Biomaterials Science, 2, 1110-1119 (2014).