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BioE Seminar Series Presents: Jennifer Fiegel

October 21, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Jennifer Fiegel, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, University of Iowa, Iowa City IA

“Oh the Places You’ll Go – Strategies to Treat Pulmonary Bacterial Biofilms and Cell-Penetrating Microbes”


Lung diseases remain a leading cause of death worldwide, with significant increases observed in incidence, morbidity, and mortality over several decades. The lungs are a critical organ for life, but are particularly susceptible to injury and airborne infection. Once established in the lungs, bacterial lung infections can be difficult to eradicate due to a lack of effective antimicrobial drug concentrations at the site of infection, the formation of bacterial colonies or biofilms in the lungs, and microbe invasion of lung tissues. The Fiegel lab has been developing a variety of strategies to target antimicrobial treatments directly to the lungs to eliminate bacterial pathogens. In this talk, I will discuss work from our lab in two areas. First, I will describe our efforts to develop dry powder aerosols containing a novel combination therapy to enhance the susceptibility of biofilm-forming bacteria to common antibiotics. These therapies combine the action of dispersion compounds to aid the removal of bacteria from the biofilm community, with that of traditional antibiotics to eliminate the pathogens. While these combinations can eradicate both young and mature biofilms more effectively than antibiotics alone, testing on patient-isolated bacteria suggests that a clinical course of treatment must be personalized. Second, I will discuss our efforts to design multi-functional zwitterionic polymer coatings for nanoparticles to reduce biofouling of the nanoparticle surface and enhance adhesion to the lung epithelium. We have observed that polymer coatings help maintain nanoparticle stability in serum and lung fluid, likely due to strong hydration of the polymers and reduced protein adsorption. However, while increased particle uptake was observed for zwitterionic-coated particles exposed to serum, no differences were observed with particles exposed to lung fluid. This suggests that a distinct protein corona is formed in the two fluids which differentially influences particle-cell interactions.


Jennifer Fiegel is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at the University of Iowa. She received her PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2004, then performed postdoctoral studies in the area of aerosol treatments for tuberculosis at Harvard University until 2006. At the University of Iowa, Dr. Fiegel has developed a multi-disciplinary research program focused on the design of drug delivery systems for the treatment of infections of the lungs and skin. As part of this work, she examines the behavior of complex lung fluids and particle-fluid interactions. This work has led to over 40 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, and patents; and funding from the NIH and NSF. She has recently expanded her research portfolio to include engineering education research, with a current focus on engineering ethics. But what she is most proud of is the 14 graduate students and 49 undergraduate students, more than half of whom are underrepresented in STEM, that she has mentored in her laboratory since becoming a faculty member. Her emphasis on student development has been acknowledged through teaching awards in both the Colleges of Engineering and Pharmacy, as well as a Diversity Stimulus Award, Summer Research Opportunities Mentoring Award, and Champion for Student Success Award at the university.

If interested in attending, please email Elizabeth Chesley at


October 21, 2020
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm




Graduate, Alumni, Faculty