SCE welcomes Dr. Amber Rath-Stern, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering. She holds a joint appointment with the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Department in the School of Computing and Engineering and the Oral Biology Department in the School of Dentistry. Dr. Stern received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from UNCCharlotte and Virginia Tech, respectively. Her early research centered on human injury tolerances and associated risk factors in automobile crashes. She went on to earn her Doctoral degree in Biomedical Engineering from the Virginia Tech – Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, followed by a postdoctoral appointment at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Stern’s current research focuses on the ability of bone cells to sense and respond to strain. Dr. Stern is a two-time recipient of the IBMS/ASBMR Alice L. Jee Memorial Young Investigator Award, a Collegiate Inventors Competition
Finalist, and an American Society of Mechanical Engineers Graduate Teaching Fellow. Dr. Stern has published numerous scholarly articles as well as presented her research at international meetings.
Dr. Stern’s research bridges the fields of mechanical engineering and molecular/cell biology, while focusing on the mechanotransduction of osteocytes. Osteocytes are the most abundant cell type in bone and are responsible for sensing mechanical stress and signaling bone modeling and remodeling. Dr. Stern has examined the effects of an osteocyte’s micro- environment on its biological signaling response through the use of finite element modeling, shear strain applied via fluid flow, and cellular deformation induced by substrate stretching. Through her research, she has been able to show that the mechanical properties of an osteocyte’s microenvironment determine the amount of strain transmitted to the osteocyte. The stiffer the material immediately surrounding the osteocyte is the more attenuated the strain transmitted to the osteocyte becomes. If the environment surrounding an osteocyte is less stiff and/or more porous, the strain transmitted to the osteocyte is amplified. These findings are significant because it has been shown that the material properties of the osteocyte’s microenvironment vary within a single bone as well as between individuals, especially in osteoporotic patients and with increasing age. [Above reprinted from CEMT Newsletter, March 31, 2011, Volume 1, Issue 1]