Plenary Talk by Dr. Yu SUN

Robotic Manipulation and Biophysical Characterization of Cells from Clinical Samples


Yu Sun, Professor

University of Toronto
Canada Research Chair in Micro and Nano Engineering Systems

Time: 9AM-10AM, December 12
Venue: Ballroom, 3rd Floor


Advances in biology and medicine require enabling techniques for manipulating and characterizing cells and sub-cellular structures. Robotic cell surgery and automated biophysical characterization of cells enable new frontiers in science and have tangible clinical relevance. Precise extraction of chromatins and sub-cellular organelles is poised to revolutionize genomics and proteomics. Robotic deposition of foreign materials into cells is enabling new drug efficacy tests for the pharmaceutical industry. Biophysical characterization of cells has revealed increasing relevance of cells’ electrical and mechanical properties for predicting disease states. However, due to the small sizes of these objects and to their heterogeneity in a clinical sample, automated manipulation and characterization of single cells at a high speed is challenging.

In this talk, I will first introduce examples of our robotic cell manipulation technologies. Hardware platforms and techniques such as cell immobilization, vision-based contact detection, visual servo control, and mechanical characterization of cells will be presented. Recent work with collaborating hospitals on robotic manipulation of sperm, oocytes, and urine cells will be discussed. System performance and applications to molecule testing, clinical cell surgery, and bladder cancer detection will be highlighted. I will then introduce biophysical characterization of blood cells from patients. Compared to oocytes and urine cells, the number of blood cells for testing can be overwhelming. I will present our recently developed technologies for quantifying multiple electrical and mechanical parameters of individual blood cells orders of magnitude faster than conventional approaches. New findings on property changes of banked blood cells over blood storage will be presented.


Yu Sun is a Professor in the Dept. of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, with joint appointments in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto (UofT). He is the Director of the University’s Nanofabrication Center that hosts over 45 $Million micro-nanofabrication equipment.

His Advanced Micro and Nanosystems Laboratory develops MEMS devices and micro-nanorobotic systems to manipulate and characterize cells, biomolecules, and nanomaterials under optical and electron microscopes.

Sun obtained his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota. He did postdoctoral research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH-Zürich). He is a McLean Senior Faculty Fellow at UofT and the Canada Research Chair in Micro and Nano Engineering Systems. He is a fellow of ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and a fellow of EIC (Engineering Institute of Canada).