Bruce Dunn, PhD

Bruce Dunn, Ph.D. 

Nippon Sheet Glass Professor and Chair, Materials Science and Engineering


Bruce Dunn, Ph.D., creates materials and coatings with designed optical, electrical, electrochemical and biochemical properties.  These materials and coatings are used in a wide range of devices for sensing, energy generation and storage and communications. He applies his expertise in engineering and physical science to stem cell research by engineering nanomaterials to direct differentiation, the process by which stem cells create specialized cells. Ultimately, he hopes that this work will result in improved methods for the use of stem cells in disease modeling, drug screening and tissue regeneration.

Dunn designs finely textured surfaces that use chemicals and molecules to keep stem cells in a state of pluripotency, which means they can create any cell type, or to direct them to differentiate into tissue-specific cells. These surfaces can also be used to draw stem cells together to form patterns. Dunn's work in this area contributed to the creation of three-dimensional lung-like organoids that mimic the air sac structures of human lungs. These organoids are made by coating sticky hydrogel beads with stem cells and then positioning the beads into small wells. Inside each well, the lung cells grow around the beads, which links them and forms an evenly distributed three-dimensional pattern. Lung organoids are currently used for disease modeling and drug screening. Dunn and his collaborators hope that the methods they are developing could one day grow full healthy organs from patient stem cells, which could then be transplanted back to patients.

Dunn pioneered methods to encapsulate proteins within inorganic materials – materials that do not come from plant or animal matter – so that the material exhibits the properties of the protein. These materials can be used to create sensors that monitor chemical reactions, for example, a sticker that can be applied to the skin to continuously monitor blood sugar levels. They could also be used for biological fuel cells where enzymes in the fuel cell convert the chemical energy of a fuel such as glucose to produce electrical energy. Dunn hopes his work in this area will lead to novel technologies that meet increasing demand for compact and non-invasive biomedical devices and renewable energy sources that are cost-effective, environmentally friendly and readily available. 

Dunn is also developing small, fast-charging batteries that hold more power for longer periods. He is improving upon the traditional construction of batteries by designing three-dimensional batteries that are arranged in pillars. This novel construction could enable high-powered batteries to exist on a nanoscale, which could be used to power medical devices implanted in the body and more compact computer electronics.

Dunn earned a doctorate degree in ceramics from UCLA.


Honors & Affiliations


  • Orton Lecture, American Ceramic Society, 2016
  • Distinguished Visiting Professor, Shinshu University, Japan, 2015
  • Elected member, World Academy of Ceramics, 2013
  • Fellow, Materials Research Society, 2012
  • Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in Metals and Ceramics, United States Department of Energy, 1998
  • Fellow, American Ceramic Society, 1997


  • Associate Editor, Solid State Ionics
  • Board of Reviewing Editors, Science
  • Editorial board, Advanced Energy Materials
  • Associate Editor, Journal of the American Ceramic Society


Dunn's research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Office of Naval Research, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Maryland and the Brain Research Institute.