High School Science Resources: MECHANOBIOLOGY



The CEMB supports a summer professional development initiative for high school science teachers around the interdisciplinary research across the broad themes of mechanobiology.  The goal is for teachers to (1) participate in a CEMB research project during the summer, (2) develop a personal curriculum plan with specific lessons and activities to use in their teaching practice the following academic year, and (3) participate in academic year workshops with the project team and other teachers. See details about the RET (Research Experience for Teachers).

This portion of the MechanobioHUB will support teachers in the RET or anyone else interested in resources for cell biology, biophysics, and biomedical technologies.


Curriculum Materials: from RET participants 

  1. Cell Types Project
  2. Cell Types_ Yeast Reproduction
  3. Cell Types_Plant Stomata
  4. Cells Types Practicum
  5. Characterizing Tissues
  6. Mechanical Propteries of Tissues
  7. Motor Proteins webquest

Curriculum Materials: from TeachEngineering.org 

  1. Stress and Strain – Cancer Detection
  2. Cell Membranes
  3. Cells


  • What is mechanobiology?  In fewer than two minutes, you will know!  VIDEO (1:38)
  • How does the CEMB study mechanobiology? VIDEO (11:16)

Content videos from CEMB faculty: (you must be able to access the CEMB YouTube channel)

  1. Introduction to cell biology – Professor Erika Holzbaur (UPenn, School of Medicine) discusses cellular structure and dynamics in the animal cell.
  2. Cellular mechanics in animal cells – Prof. Richard Assoian, (UPenn, School of Medicine) discusses mechanical sensing INSIDE the animal cell.
  3. Cellular mechanics in plant cells – Prof. Ram Dixit (WashU, School of Arts and Sciences) discusses mechanical elements INSIDE the plant cell.
  4. Extracellular matrix in animal tissue – Prof. Rebecca Wells (UPenn, School of Medicine) discusses the mechanical elements OUTSIDE the animal cell.
  5. Extracellular matrix in plant tissue – Prof. Marcus Foston, (WashU, School of Engineering and Applied Science) discusses the mechanical elements OUTSIDE the plant cell.

Want more?….. There are many more videos available along with the set of slides for each talk at the Boot Camp page.

Big Ideas in Mechanobio (Download)

Our teachers created this document to help make connections to topics in the field of mechanobiology relevant to topics in a high school science class.

1.  Scientists across STEM disciplines are now collaborating to study living cells in 2D and 3D dynamic environments that mimic physiological conditions. This is a shift away from examining non-living, stained cells in petri dishes.

2.  The extracellular matrix (ECM) is the biological molecules that make up a cell’s 3D environment.  ECM-Cell and ECM-ECM interactions play a critical role in cell function, movement, signaling, sensing, adhesion, and transport.

3. Protein polymers, especially of tubulin and actin present in a cell’s cytoskeleton, facilitate a connection to ECM, playing an instrumental role in function, movement, signaling, sensing, adhesion, and transport.

4. Cells can sense their environment through various mechanical and chemical pathways and can transduce that information to other cells, resulting in changes to cell function and behavior.

5. By measuring forces exerted by and on cells, scientists calculate many biomechanically important quantities such as stress, strain, stiffness, etc.  Stiffness is particularly relevant in pathology (i.e. fibrosis, cirrhosis, cardiovascular disease, progeria, etc.).

6. Both traditional and state-of-the-art instruments and techniques are required for data collection, imaging, characterization, fabrication, and modeling during research related to biological molecules and cells.

Other video resources

Biology: Cell Structure

Credit:  Nucleus Medical Media

This animation shows you the function of plant and animal cells for middle school and high school biology, including organelles like the nucleus, nucleolus, DNA (chromosomes), ribosomes, mitochondria, etc. Also included are ATP molecules, cytoskeleton, cytoplasm, microtubules, proteins, chloroplasts, chlorophyll, cell walls, cell membrane, cilia, flagellae, etc.


Other web resources

A Tour of the Cell – a short, interactive introduction to cell structure and function.  Credit:  NSF, Biology

MBInfo – a rich web-based resource, MBInfo provides fundamental information on topics relevant to the field of Mechanobiology and keeps you up-to-date on the latest findings coming out of the Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore.


Nanotechnology Curricula
The NanoSense project (2004-2008) addressed the question of how to teach nanoscale science at the high school level.  Working closely with scientists and educators, the project created, tested, and disseminated 4 curriculum units to help high school teachers and students understand nanoscale science. NanoSense materials were developed by SRI International, with support from the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ESI-0426319. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

NanoSense website.

NIH:  National Institute of General Medical Science;

Inside the Cell is a science education booklet that explores the interior design of cells and vividly describes the processes that take place within its organelles and structures. Each chapter includes a few review questions.  Webpage.

NIH:  National Cancer Institute;

Cell Biology and Cancerdeveloped with the National Cancer Institute (NCI)—is a creative, inquiry-based instruction program, designed to promote active learning and stimulate student interest in medical topics.

The unit consists of lesson plans, which are accessed through the Teacher’s Guide section of the Web site and the multimedia student activities, which are accessed through the Student Activities page. The Web-based activities for students are only one part of the curriculum unit. The Lesson Plans provide the framework for both the hands-on classroom activities and the Web-based multimedia activities that make up this curriculum supplement. Together, the classroom and multimedia activities enable students to gain a deeper understanding of the science behind this important topic, and how it relates to human health.  Website