Elastic nonlinearity is a mechanical property inherent to biological tissues and fibrous networks (e.g. actin, collagen, fibrin, neurofilament, fetal membrane, and gut tissue). However, this property of strain-stiffening has been difficult to mimic with traditional elastic and viscoelastic PEG-based synthetic hydrogels used for three-dimensional cell culture. Bottlebrush hydrogels are mechanically unique materials that capture the stiffening properties of native extracellular matrix. Monica uses these gels as a culture platform to understand how strain-stiffening micro-environments influence the morphology, mechano-transduction, and differentiation of human mesenchymal stromal cells and other multicellular constructs.
Outside of the lab, Monica acts as Secretary of the Postdoctoral Association of Colorado Boulder. She also enjoys painting and photography and is loving being able to backpack, hike, and ski in the Rocky Mountains.