Sean Palecek is the Milton J. and Maude Shoemaker Professor and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Sean’s lab studies how human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) sense and respond to microenvironmental cues in making fate choices, with a focus on differentiation to cardiovascular lineages. They construct culture systems that apply soluble chemical signaling, immobilized matrix proteins, cell-cell contacts, and mechanical cues to differentiating hPSCs and determine the developmental pathways stimulated by these cues. Then they use this information to engineer simple, efficient, and robust process to differentiate hPSCs to desired somatic cell types. Sean’s lab strives to engineer fully-defined, animal component-free differentiation platforms, compatible with biomanufacturing of cells for in vitro and in vivo applications.
Sean earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware, an M.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at MIT. His thesis research studied mechanisms of integrin-mediated cell adhesion and migration. During postdoctoral research in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Chicago, Sean investigated the genetics of yeast adhesion, morphogenesis, and invasive growth. His research revolves around cellular signalling networks, focusing on mechano-transduction pathways, and characterization of how quantitative changes in the flow of signals can control a wide variety of cellular processes. In particular, he looks at how cell-cell adhesive interactions affect disease pathogenesis and how adhesive and mechanical signals combine with chemical signals to regulate stem cell fate choices.
Sean is active in the stem cell bioengineering community, having organized international meetings and short courses, delivering keynote lectures, and serving on advisory panels and journal editorial boards.