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Silviya Petrova Zustiak, Ph.D.

Professor and Associate Chair; Co-Director, Institute of Drug and Biotherapeutic Innovation at SLU
Biomedical Engineering
Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology


Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biophysics at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Ph.D. in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC)
B.S./M.S. in Bioelectrical Engineering, Technical University, Sofia, Bulgaria

Research Interests

Zustiak’s primary research interests are in hydrogel biomaterials and tissue engineering, with emphasis on developing novel biomaterials as cell scaffolds and drug screening platforms, and elucidating matrix structure-property relationships as well as cell-matrix interactions. Biomaterial-based models are crucial for bridging the gap between traditional tissue culture and animal models by providing a cell environment that closely mimics real tissue. Dr. Zustiak also develops bioresorbable and injectable hydrogel and nanocomposite formulations as sustained release drug delivery devices. Her research is highly multidisciplinary, merging the fields of engineering, materials science, and biology.

Labs and Facilities

Zustiak Soft Tissue Engineering Laboratory

Publications and Media Placements

1.     D. Shakiba, *G. Genin, *S. P. Zustiak, “Mechanobiology of cancer cell responsiveness to drug and immunotherapy: mechanistic insights and biomaterial platforms”, Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, 2023, 196, 114771 (IF: 17.873) 

2.     #J. Bruns, T. Egan, P. Mercier, *S. P. Zustiak, “Glioblastoma spheroid growth and chemotherapeutic responses in single and dual-stiffness hydrogels”, Acta Biomaterialia, 2023, 163, 400-414 (IF: 10.633) 

3.     #M. Khachani, #S, Stealey, #E. Dharmesh, M. S. Kader, S. Buckner, P. Jelliss, *S. P. Zustiak, “Silicate Clay-Hydrogel Nanoscale Composites for Sustained Delivery of Small Molecules”, ACS Applied Nano Materials, 2022, 5 (12) 18940–18954 (IF: 6.140) 

4.     #A. Clancy, D. Chen, #J. Bruns, #J. Nadella, #S. Stealey, Y. Zhang, *A. Timperman, *S. P. Zustiak, “Hydrogel-based microfluidic device with multiplexed 3D in vitro cell culture”, Scientific Reports, 2022, 12(1), 1-13 (IF: 4.379) 

5.     #S. Sheth, #S. Stealey, *N. Y. Morgan, *S. P. Zustiak, “Microfluidic Chip Device for in situ Mixing and Fabrication of Hydrogel Microspheres via Michael-Type Addition”, Langmuir, 2021, 37(40), 11793–11803 (IF: 3.882) 

6.     Z. Ghassemi, #S. Ruesing (co-first), *J. B. Leach, *S. P. Zustiak, “Stability and Structure of Lysozyme Encapsulated in Michael-Type Addition Polyethylene Glycol Hydrogels”, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 2021, 118(12), 4840-4853 (IF: 4.530) 

7.     #S. Stealey, A. Gaharwar, N. Pozzi, *S. P. Zustiak, “Development of Nanosilicate-Hydrogel Composites for Sustained Delivery of Charged Biopharmaceutics”, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2021, 13(24), 27880–27894 (IF: 10.383) 

8.     #L. Hill, #J. Bruns, *S. P. Zustiak, “Hydrogel matrix presence and composition influences drug responses of encapsulated glioblastoma spheroids”, Acta Biomaterialia, 2021, 132, 437-447 (IF: 10.633) 

9.     #E. Jain, #A. Blanco, N. Chinzei, L.J. Sandell, N. Case, S.A. Sell, *M.F. Rai, *S.P. Zustiak, “Sustained-released platelet-rich plasma from polyethylene glycol hydrogels exerts beneficial effects on chondrocytes”, Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 2019, 37 (11), 2401-2410 (IF: 3.102) 

10.  #M. Imaninezhad, #L. Hill, G. Kolar, #K. Vogt, *S. P. Zustiak, “Templated hydrogels for spheroid and aggregate cell culture”, Bioconjugate Chemistry, 2019, 30, 34-46 (IF: 6.069) 

11.  #M. Imaninezhad, K Pemberton, F. Xu, #K. Kalinowski, #R. Berra, *S. P. Zustiak, “Directed and enhanced neurite outgrowth following exogenous electrical stimulation on carbon nanotube-hydrogel composites”, Journal of Neural Engineering, 2018, 15(5), 056034 (IF: 5.043) 

12.  #S. Syed, J. Schober, #A. Blanco, *S. P. Zustiak, “Morphological adaptations in breast cancer cells as a function of prolonged passaging on compliant substrates”, Plos One, 2017, 12(11), e0187853 (IF: 3.752) 

13.  #A. S. Qayyum, #E. Jain, G. Kolar, Y. Kim, S. Sell, *S. P. Zustiak, “Design of electrohydrodynamic sprayed polyethylene glycol hydrogel microspheres for cell encapsulation”, Biofabrication, 2017, 9(2), 025019 (IF: 11.061) 

14.  #E. Jain, #L. Hill, #E. Canning, *S. Sell, *S. P. Zustiak, “Control of gelation, degradation and physical properties of polyethylene glycol hydrogels through the chemical and physical identity of the crosslinker”, Journal of Materials Chemistry B, 2017, 5, 2679-2691 (IF: 7.571) 

15.  P. Donovan, #Y. Chehreghanianzabi, *M. Rathinam, *S. P. Zustiak, “Homogenization theory for the prediction of obstructed solute diffusivity in polymer solutions”, PlosOne, 2016, 11(1), e0146093 (IF: 3.752) 

16.  #K. Shah, #D. Vasileva, #A. Karadaghy, *S. P. Zustiak, “Development and characterization of polyethylene glycol-carbon nanotube hydrogel composite”, Journal of Materials Chemistry B, 2015, 3, 7950-7962 (IF: 7.571) 

17.  S. P. Zustiak, R. Nossal, *D. Sackett, “Hindered Diffusion in Polymeric Solutions Studied by Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy”, Biophysical Journal, 2011, 101, 255-264 (IF: 4.033) 

18.  S. P. Zustiak, *J. B. Leach, “Hydrolytically Degradable Poly(ethylene glycol) Hydrogel Scaffolds with Tunable Degradation and Mechanical Properties”, Biomacromolecules, 2010, 11, 1348-1357 (IF: 6.978) 

19.  S. P. Zustiak, H. Boukari, *J. B. Leach, “Solute Diffusion and Interactions in Cross-linked Poly(ethylene glycol) Hydrogels Studied by Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy”, Soft Matter, 2010, 6, 3609-3618 (IF: 4.046) 

20.  S. P. Zustiak, R. Durbal, *J. B. Leach, “Influence of Cell-adhesive Peptide Ligands on Poly(ethylene glycol) Hydrogel Physical, Mechanical and Transport Properties”, Acta Biomaterialia, 2010, 6, 3404-3414 (IF: 10.633) 


Honors and Awards

2023 Woman of the Year Award, SLU Women’s Commission, recognition for history of achievement and service which have encouraged emulation and appreciation by others
2021 Parks College Pre-Commencement Keynote Address to graduating students

2019 Keynote speaker, Annual Technical Meeting of the Society of Engineering Science, St Louis, MO

2018 Saint Louis University Scholarly Works Award for a junior faculty member (1 awarded per year)

2015 Outstanding Parks Graduate Faculty Award, Saint Louis University, St Louis, MO

2011 Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE), NIH