Leonard Lab: Laboratory for Cellular Devices and Biomolecular Engineering

Leonard Lab: Laboratory for Cellular Devices and Biomolecular Engineering


Our group creates novel biological systems that perform customized, sophisticated functions for applications in biotechnology and medicine. Using the tools of synthetic biology, protein and biomolecule engineering, systems biology, and gene therapy, we develop technologies for manipulating and coordinating complex multicellular functions. A central area of interest for our group is controlling the function of a complex biological network - the human immune system – by engineering novel biomolecules and programmable cell-based “devices” to create  novel, customized immune functions. By enabling clinicians to modify local immune responses in a patient- and disease-specific fashion, we are overcoming barriers to treatment for conditions ranging from cancer and chronic infections to autoimmune disease and transplant rejection. Other research themes include engineering coordinated microbial networks to create self-optimizing microbial consortia for applications in biotechnology, and developing platforms for synthetic interkingdom communication to create technologies such as symbiotic microbial biosensors that coordinate with human host cells. By bringing an engineering approach to the analysis, design, and construction of complex biological systems, we are advancing the frontiers of design-based medicine to address unmet medical needs and create safe, effective, and long-lasting treatment options that improve both quantity and quality of life.

Basic Information

Opportunity Type: 

  • Internship, Research Assistant, Volunteer, Work Study/Paid Employment

Opportunity Timeframe: 

  • Academic Year and/or Full Year, Northwestern Spring Quarter, Northwestern Summer Session, Northwestern Fall Quarter, Northwestern Winter Quarter

Opportunity Location: 

  • Evanston Campus

Location Map: 

Requirements & Prerequisites


  • Undergraduate Students

Language Requirement: 


Other Required Skills: 

We seek highly motivated and curious individuals interested in tackling scientifically compelling problems that have a real impact on human lives. For most projects, applicants must have completed first year university-level core courses in science and mathematics. Students interested in computational (or partially computational) projects should have completed some relevant coursework prior to beginning their research project; advanced programming and science courses may be taken concurrently. Exceptions to these guidelines may be granted for exceptional candidates; please inquire.

Academic Information

Course Credit Availability: 

  • Yes

Subject Area(s): 

  • Computing and Mathematics, Engineering, Natural Sciences

Keyword Descriptors: 

  • Synthetic Biology, bioengineering, Cancer, immunology, modeling, Computational Biology, Genetic Engineering, Systems Biology, biotechnology, immunotherapy, protein engineering, gene therapy, biological engineering

Financial Information


Depends on experience of applicant; please inquire

Contact Information

Sponsors & Partners


  • McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, The Graduate School

NU Sponsor: 

Chemical and Biological Engineering