Brenton D. Hoffman


James L. and Elizabeth M. Vincent Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering

The overall goal of my research program is to utilize an interdisciplinary approach to first advance the basic understanding of mechanotransduction on multiple scales and then use this knowledge to guide the development of new treatments for mechanosensitive diseases. Our work combines principles and techniques from protein engineering, molecular biology, soft matter physics, cell and developmental biology, biomaterials engineering, automated image analysis, and state of the art live cell microscopy. Specifically, we engineer and use biosensors that report the tension across specific proteins in living cells through changes in the color of light they emit. This technology enables dynamic measurements of proteins and sub-cellular structures that are under load. Unlike more traditional techniques that measure the entirety of cellular force output, the ability of these sensors to measure mechanical stress at the molecular level means they are innately compatible with concepts and approaches common in molecular biology and biophysics.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • James L. and Elizabeth M. Vincent Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering
  • Assistant Professor in Cell Biology

Contact Information


  • Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 2007

Research Interests

Focused on understanding, on a molecular level, how mechanical and chemical cues from the environment are detected, integrated, and manipulated by cells to dictate physiological and patho-physiological responses important in vascular biology.

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Klein Family Distinguished Teaching Award. Pratt School of Engineering. 2016
  • Scholars. Searle Scholars. 2013

Courses Taught

  • BME 302L: Fundamentals of Biomaterials and Biomechanics (AC or GE)
  • BME 306L: Cellular Engineering (AC or GE)
  • BME 390L: Special Topics with a Lab
  • BME 394: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 527: Cell Mechanics and Mechanotransduction (GE, BB, MC)
  • BME 711S: Biological Engineering Seminar Series (CBIMMS and CBTE)
  • BME 712S: Biological Engineering Seminar Series (CBIMMS and CBTE)
  • BME 791: Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 792: Continuation of Graduate Independent Study
  • EGR 393: Research Projects in Engineering
  • ME 391: Undergraduate Projects in Mechanical Engineering
  • ME 717S: Biological Engineering Seminar Series (CBIMMS and CBTE)
  • ME 718S: Biological Engineering Seminar Series (CBIMMS and CBTE)

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Hoffman, BD; Grashoff, C; Schwartz, MA, Dynamic molecular processes mediate cellular mechanotransduction, Nature, vol 475 no. 7356 (2011), pp. 316-323 [10.1038/nature10316] [abs].
  • Grashoff, C; Hoffman, BD; Brenner, MD; Zhou, R; Parsons, M; Yang, MT; McLean, MA; Sligar, SG; Chen, CS; Ha, T; Schwartz, MA, Measuring mechanical tension across vinculin reveals regulation of focal adhesion dynamics, Nature, vol 466 no. 7303 (2010), pp. 263-266 [10.1038/nature09198] [abs].
  • Hoffman, BD; Massiera, G; Citters, KMV; Crocker, JC, The consensus mechanics of cultured mammalian cells, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol 103 no. 27 (2006), pp. 10259-10264 [10.1073/pnas.0510348103] [abs].