Jasiuk combines biology with new mechanical technologies

1/27/2022

Lexi Larson

Iwona JasiukWhere you start working is often not where you end up, as is the case for MechSE Professor Iwona Jasiuk.

From working with automotive and aeronautical materials, Jasiuk’s curiosity about biological materials as part of the human body took over. Her research aims to impact healthcare by studying both healthy and diseased biological tissues. In parallel, she is exploring the capabilities of lightweight structural materials for various applications.

“Bones, as a structurally important material for every living animal, intrigued me,” she said.

Studying materials found in nature, Jasiuk uses bioinspired design to develop new architectured materials and structures. The materials include lattices with triply periodic minimal surfaces. Such arrangements can be found in biological membranes and butterfly wing scales.

“These materials have smooth surfaces with no sharp corners, which minimizes stress concentrations and increases materials’ load-bearing capacity,” Jasiuk said.

After designing the materials, they are manufactured using 3D printing and tested under static and dynamic loads. These cellular materials and structures can be used as scaffolds for bone regeneration or body protection in helmets or armors. There are also many technological applications for these lightweight materials.

Last year, Jasiuk was appointed a Health Innovation Professor in the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. This role, combined with her mechanical engineering research, gives Jasiuk the space and tools to follow her interests.

Her research related to the College of Medicine is in orthopedics, where she addresses the topics of mechanics of bone and design of bioinspired materials. The focus is on bones’ strength and how they fracture. She aims to determine a more accurate process of predicting bone health—an area of high clinical interest. This knowledge can guide treatments and could prevent bone breaks.

She investigates bones’ structure, composition, and mechanical properties related to health and disease and as a function of age. She aims to create experimentally based computational tools to predict osteoporosis and other bone diseases.

Alongside this research, Jasiuk is looking into the use of the reference point indentation technique, which allows the direct measurement of mechanical properties of the bone and relates them to the risk of bone fracture.

Jasiuk has been part of the College of Medicine—the first medical school in the country to combine medicine and engineering—from the beginning, working as an Engineering Director for the Women’s Health course, serving on several committees, and reviewing student applications. Currently, she serves as a chair for one committee and as the Engineering Partner in Pediatrics in the college’s IDEA course.

Jasiuk also holds faculty affiliate positions in several other departments, including Aerospace Engineering, Bioengineering, and Civil and Environmental Engineering, while also active in several research centers at Illinois. These interdisciplinary connections allow her to pursue materials research broadly.