Photo of Szablowski



Postdoctoral Scholar, Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology (2015-2019)

Ph.D., Bioengineering, California Institute of Technology (2015)

B.S., Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2009)

Bio Sketch

Jerzy Szablowski works on technologies for highly-precise interfacing with cells in deep tissues. He developed agents for MRI imaging, therapeutics that can be programmed to target different diseases, and methods of noninvasive control of specific neural circuits in living organisms. In the Laboratory for Noninvasive Neuroengineering, he continues to innovate in developing methodologies for controlling and monitoring cells in one of the most complex systems in nature – the mammalian brain.

Prior to joining Rice, Szablowski received his B.S. from MIT in Biological Engineering, where he published three papers on MRI imaging of neuronal activity and bioelectronics. He then earned his Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) working in the field of molecular recognition and bioorganic chemistry in the laboratory of Peter Dervan, where he focused on the development of new small-molecule therapeutics for oncology that relied on sequence-specific binding to DNA. His postdoctoral work in Chemical Engineering at Caltech in Mikhail Shapiro’s lab led to the development of Acoustically Targeted Chemogenetics (ATAC), the first fully noninvasive neuromodulation method that also allows for control of neuronal cell populations with spatial, cell-type, molecular, and temporal precision. His previous research resulted in 12 journal publications, 2 patents, and one additional provisional patent.

Szablowski is a NARSAD Young Investigator as well as recipient of the Bauer fellowship for graduate studies, received 3rd place worldwide in the iGEM Synthetic Biology competition (synthetic standard prize, best new application, best measurement), and received the BMES J&J Prize for excellence in biomedical research in addition to several other awards.

Research Statement

In the Laboratory for Noninvasive Neuroengineering, we focus on developing new technologies to noninvasively interface with the brain. Our philosophy is to develop new innovative platform technologies for controlling and monitoring the brain that can be generalized to multiple experimental systems and brain disorders. The lab aims to speed up the process of scientific discovery and translation of cures for neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases.

Neuroscience research and discovery of new neurotherapeutics is a slow process due to the high complexity of mammalian nervous systems. To more rapidly decode this complexity we will need new methods of interfacing with the brain, which includes both control and monitoring. However, existing brain interfacing techniques either require invasive procedures or lack the necessary cellular and molecular specificity. The invasive methods can cause damage or inflammation in the very brain areas being studied, have limited scalability to large or multiple brain regions, or are limited in their clinical applications. The available non-invasive methods often lack the sufficient specificity to control specific cell-types in microscopic regions of the brain, which is necessary to study specific behaviors or treat complex neuropsychiatric disorders. In the Laboratory for Noninvasive Neuroengineering we aim to develop methods that will have both noninvasive capabilities and high molecular and spatial precision. The success of this research will result in the development of neuro-therapeutics with fewer side effects and new research tools for systems neuroscience. Along the way we will also contribute to the fields of ultrasound-enhanced drug and gene delivery, molecular engineering, directed evolution, and synthetic and system biology. We validate our technologies through applications in behavioral and systems neuroscience, and strive to make technologies that are robust, scalable, and amenable to clinical translation.

  • Drug and gene delivery: Engineering methods and molecules for spatially-specific gene delivery to the brain. Each brain region performs different functions, and thus spatially precise targeting is necessary for the treatment of specific brain disorders. Our methods of drug and gene delivery allow our molecular constructs to perform their tasks within specific brain regions.
  • Molecular engineering: In each project we engineer new molecules to perform complex tasks within the brain. Molecular engineering research in our group comprises therapeutic engineering, protein engineering, gene-delivery-vector engineering, and directed evolution of biomolecules.
  • Synthetic biology: Cell-type specific expression of genetically encoded molecular constructs in our lab requires use of cell-type specific promoters and engineered gene circuits. We utilize synthetic biology to design and improve the specificity of gene expression in mammalian organisms.
  • Systems neuroscience: One of the major goals of the Laboratory for Noninvasive Neuroengineering is to enable faster scientific discoveries and more facile translation of experimental drugs to the bedside. The noninvasive methods of interfacing with the brain will enable the study of interactions between large numbers of circuits in intact, living brains, thus providing information that would otherwise have to be evaluated from tissue sections post-mortem.
  • Translational research on brain disorders: Our methods are applicable to a wide range of brain disorders, such as epilepsy or chronic pain, and through collaborations with leaders in the field, we aim to find new strategies for clinical treatments.