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James McGrath

James McGrath

  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering

PhD, Harvard-MIT, 1998

306 Goergen Hall
(585) 273-5489
Fax: (585) 273-4746



Professor McGrath graduated from Arizona State in 1991 with a BS degree in mechanical engineering. He earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering from MIT in 1994 and a PhD in biological engineering from Harvard/MIT's Division of Health Sciences and Technology in 1998. He then trained as a Distinguished Post-doctoral Fellow in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University. Since 2001, Professor McGrath has been on the biomedical engineering faculty at the University of Rochester where he also serves as the director of the graduate program in BME. While historically, Professor McGrath's research has focused on the phenomena of cell migration, since 2004 has been leading an interdisciplinary team at Rochester that is developing and applying ultrathin membrane technologies. Professor McGrath is also a co-founder and past president of SiMPore Inc. a company founded to commercially manufacture silicon nanomembranes.

Research Overview

Our laboratory maintains research programs in three areas:

The study of molecular and physical mechanisms in cell migration

We are seeking a mechanistic understanding of the collective cell migration exhibited by endothelial cells as well as the ameboid-like migration of leukocytes. In this work we are developing predictive mathematical models by using quantitative microscopy to determine key model parameters and to test model predictions.

The characterization of nanoparticle interactions with protein and cellular systems

We are pioneering methods for relating the physical properties of nanoparticles to their capacity for protein binding and to their fate within cells. The goal of this work is to understand the characteristics that make nanoparticles toxic in some cases and effective as probes or delivery vehicles in other instances. These first two research programs rely heavily on our ever-growing repertoire of microscope-based techniques for the quantitatively characterization of living cells.

The development of ultrathin silicon nanomembranes for biological applications

We are advancing a research program in a broad effort to revolutionize silicon-based membrane material discovered at the University of Rochester. The freestanding, nanoporous membrane material is also molecularly thin and mechanically robust. We have shown that it can be used for size and charge-based separation of proteins and other biomolecules at rates orders-of-magnitude faster than traditional membrane materials. The membranes are also transparent and fully biocompatible so that cells of different types can be grown on either side of the membrane to remain separated by a molecularly thin, porous layer. By developing the membrane material as a cell culture substrate, we are helping biomedical scientists and developmental biologists address long- standing questions about short distance cell-cell communication.