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Md Taher Abu Saif


Research Interests

  • Biohybrid robots, engineered living systems
  • Biomechanics: Cellular mechanics and mechanotransduction, cancer metastasis, neuro mechanics
  • Deformation mechanisms of nanoscale materials
  • Mechanics of Micro-Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS)


Research Description

Professor Saif's research focuses on the mechanics of nanoscale materials and living cells. He uses both theory and experiment to explore (1) the effect of size on the mechanics of materials, and (2) the role of mechanical force in determining the functionality of cells and cell clusters.

Professor Saif demonstrated experimentally, for the first time, that plastic deformation in nanocrystalline metal films can be reversible. After plastic deformation, metals with grain sizes between 50 and 100 nanometers recover most of their plastic strain under macroscopically stress-free condition. This recovery is time dependent and thermally activated. Saif showed that the recovery originates from the small size and heterogeniety of microstructure of the metal specimens. The research, which was reported in Science, raises the possibility of manufacturing metal components that can heal themselves after being deformed or dented.

In the area of cellular mechanics, Professor Saif's projects involve neurons, cancer and cardiac cells, and interactions between cells in clusters. He seeks to address questions such as: What is the role of tension in neurons on memory and learning? Does mechanical microenvironment influence the onset of metastasis during cancer development? Can clusters of cells be guided so that they evolve into biological machines? He, together with Professor Akira Chiba of the the University of Maimi, showed that neurons are under mechanical tension, and that such tension might be essential for memory and learning.



  • Ph.D. Theoretical & Applied Mechanics, Cornell University 1993
  • M.S. Civil Eng. Washington State University 1987
  • B.S. Civil Eng. Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (with Honors) 1984


Additional Campus Affiliations

Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Professor, Mechanical Science and Engineering
Professor, Mechanical Science and Engineering
Professor, Bioengineering
Professor, Biomedical and Translational Sciences
Professor, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology
Professor, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Highlighted Publications

  • Austin P. Passaro, Onur Aydin, M. Taher A. Saif, Steven L. Stice. Development of an objective index, neural activity score (NAS), reveals neural network ontogeny and treatment effects on microelectrode arrays. Scientific Reports, Scientific Reports volume 11, Article number: 9110 (2021)
  • Hangbo Zhao, Yongdeok Kim, Heling Wang, Xin Ning, Chenkai Xu, Judy Suh, Mengdi Han, Gelson J. Pagan-Diaz, Wei Lu, Haibo Li, Wubin Bai, Onur Aydin, Yoonseok Park, Jiaojiao Wang, Yao Yao, Yishan He, M. Taher A. Saif, Yonggang Huang, Rashid Bashir, John A. Rogers. Compliant 3D frameworks instrumented with strain sensors for characterization of millimeter-scale engineered muscle tissues. PNAS May 11, 2021 118 (19) e2100077118;
  • Bashar Emon, Zhengwei Li, Md Saddam Hossain Joy, Umnia Doha, Farhad Kosari, M Taher A Saif. A novel method for sensor-based quantification of single/multi-cellular force dynamics and stiffening in 3D matrices. Science Advances, 7 (15) (2021) eabf2629.
  • M A Bashar Emon, Samantha Knoll, Umnia Doha, Lauren Ladehoff, Luke Lalonde, Danielle Baietto, Mayandi Sivaguru, Rohit Bhargava and M Taher A Saif. Dose-independent threshold illumination for non-invasive time-lapse fluorescence imaging of live cells. Extreme Mechanics Letters, 101249, 2021.
  • Zhengwei Li, Alireza Tofangchi, Robert A. Stavins, Emon Bashar, Ronald D. McKinney, Paul J. Grippo and M. Taher A. Saif. Elastic modulus pen (EPen): A portable device to measure stiffness of soft tissues in vivo. Scientific Reports, volume 11, Article number: 378 (2021)


Recent Publications

Aydin, O., Hirashima, K., & Saif, M. T. A. (2024). Incorporating Geometric Nonlinearity in Theoretical Modeling of Muscle-Powered Soft Robotic Bio-Actuators. Journal of Applied Mechanics, Transactions ASME, 91(1), Article 011008.

Emon, B., Song, Y. J., Joy, M. S. H., Kovour, M. V., Prasanth, K. V., & Saif, M. T. A. (2023). Mechanosensitive changes in the expression of genes in colorectal cancer-associated fibroblasts. Scientific Data, 10(1), Article 350.

Lee, K. Y., Rhodes, J. S., & Saif, M. T. A. (2023). Astrocyte-mediated Transduction of Muscle Fiber Contractions Synchronizes Hippocampal Neuronal Network Development. Neuroscience, 515, 25-36.

Aydin, O., Passaro, A. P., Raman, R., Spellicy, S. E., Weinberg, R. P., Kamm, R. D., Sample, M., Truskey, G. A., Zartman, J., Dar, R. D., Palacios, S., Wang, J., Tordoff, J., Montserrat, N., Bashir, R., Saif, M. T. A., & Weiss, R. (2022). Principles for the design of multicellular engineered living systems. APL Bioengineering, 6(1), Article 010903.

Doha, U., Aydin, O., Joy, M. S. H., Emon, B., Drennan, W., & Saif, M. T. A. (2022). Disorder to order transition in cell-ECM systems mediated by cell-cell collective interactions. Acta Biomaterialia, 154, 290-301.

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