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Cole A. DeForest

Faculty Photo

Chemical Engineering Associate Chair for Graduate Studies

Weyerhaeuser Endowed Professor
Chemical Engineering

Associate Professor

Adjunct Associate Professor

Pronouns: he/him/his


  • Ph.D. Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder, 2011
  • B.S.E. (magna cum laude) Chemical Engineering, Princeton University, 2006

Previous appointments

  • Postdoctoral Research Scholar, California Institute of Technology, 2012-2013

Research Statement

While the potential for biomaterial-based strategies to improve and extend the quality of human health through tissue regeneration and the treatment of disease continues to grow, the majority of current strategies rely on outdated technology initially developed and optimized for starkly different applications. Therefore, the DeForest Group seeks to integrate the governing principles of rational design with fundamental concepts from material science, synthetic chemistry, and stem cell biology to conceptualize, create, and exploit next-generation materials to address a variety of health-related problems. We are currently interested in the development of new classes of user-programmable hydrogels whose biochemical and biophysical properties can be tuned in time and space over a variety of scales. Our work relies heavily on the utilization of cytocompatible bioorthogonal chemistries, several of which can be initiated with light and thereby confined to specific sub-volumes of a sample. By recapitulating the dynamic nature of the native tissue through 4D control of the material properties, these synthetic environments are utilized to probe and better understand basic cell function as well as to engineer complex heterogeneous tissue. Specific areas of research include:

  • User-Programmable Biomaterials for Directing Dynamic Stem Cell Fate
  • Biomolecular and Tissue Engineering
  • Controlled Delivery of Therapeutics to Treat Disease
  • Tool Development for Enhanced Proteomic Studies

More information can be found on the DeForest Research Group website.

Graduate and Postdoctoral Researchers

We are always on the lookout for creative, driven individuals looking to help make a difference in how we think about basic biology and the treatment of disease. Please check our website for current openings.

Undergraduate Researchers

Undergraduates are an integral and important part of the research taking place within the DeForest Research Group. Self-motivated students in Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, Chemistry, and Materials Science & Engineering are encouraged to contact Prof. DeForest by email with their CV and a short statement of interest. Preference will be given to underclassmen with the intent of performing research over the duration of their time at UW, though all applicants will be considered.

Select publications

  1. Shadish, J.A., Strange, A.C. & DeForest, C.A. Genetically Encoded Photocleavable Linkers for Patterned Protein Release from Biomaterials. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 141, 15619-15625 (2019).
  2. Shadish, J.A., Benuska, G.M. & DeForest, C.A. Bioactive Site-Specifically Modified Proteins for 4D Patterning of Gel Biomaterials. Nature Materials, 18, 1005-1014 (2019).
  3. Badeau, B.A., Comerford, M.P., Arakawa, C.K., Shadish, J.A. & DeForest, C.A. Engineered Modular Biomaterial Logic Gates for Environmentally Triggered Therapeutic Delivery. Nature Chemistry, 10, 251-258 (2018).
  4. Ruskowitz, E.R. & DeForest, C.A. Photoresponsive Biomaterials for Targeted Drug Delivery and 4D Cell Culture. Nature Reviews Materials, 3, 17087 (2018) DOI: 10.1038/natrevmats.2017.87.
  5. Arakawa, C.K., Badeau, B.A., Zheng, Y. & DeForest, C.A. Multicellular Vascularized Engineered Tissues through User-Programmable Biomaterial Photodegradation. Advanced Materials, 29, 1703156 (2017).
  6. DeForest, C.A. & Tirrell, D.A. A photoreversible protein-patterning approach for guiding stem cell fate in three-dimensional gels. Nat. Mater. 14, 523–531 (2015).
  7. DeForest, C.A. & Anseth, K.S. Photoreversible Patterning of Biomolecules within Click-based Hydrogels. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 51, 1816-1819 (2012).
  8. DeForest, C.A. & Anseth, K.S. Cytocompatible Click-based Hydrogels with Dynamically-Tunable Properties through Orthogonal Photoconjugation and Photocleavage Reactions. Nature Chemistry, 3, 925-931 (2011).
  9. DeForest, C.A., Polizzotti, B.D. & Anseth, K.S. Sequential Click Reactions for Synthesizing and Patterning 3D Cell Microenvironments. Nature Materials 8, 659-664 (2009).

Honors & awards

  • UW College of Engineering Junior Faculty Award, 2020
  • Society for Biomaterials Young Investigator Award, 2020
  • Emerging Investigator Award, Royal Society of Chemistry, Biomaterials Science, 2019
  • Early Career Award in Cancer Research, Safeway and the Cancer Consortium, 2018
  • 35 Under 35 Award, Bioengineering Category, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 2017
  • Emerging Investigator Award, Journal of Materials Chemistry B, 2017
  • Young Investigator Award, Polymeric Materials: Science & Eng. Division, American Chemical Society, 2017
  • NSF CAREER Award, 2017
  • UW Presidential Distinguished Teaching Award, 2016