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Liza Mulder

Graduate Student

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About Liza

Liza Mulder grew up in Toledo, Ohio and attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she discovered a love of physics. In 2017, she went to UChicago to join the PhD program in physics and learned more about areas of research at the intersection of physics and biology. She was fascinated by the diversity of questions in the field of biophysics and the creativity of the solutions used to investigate both biological and physical systems.


In 2018, Liza joined the Esser-Kahn lab to work on a project that seeks to probe the fundamentals of the innate immune system by using Fluidic Force Microscopy (FluidFM) to target single immune cells in culture. She is excited to be working on a project with the potential to both elucidate the fundamentals of a complex system and inform more applied research in the field.


When not in lab, Liza likes to read, knit, and play tabletop games with her friends. 


M.S. in Physics, University of Chicago, 2019

B.A. in Physics, Smith College, 2015

Favorite Quote

“Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says ‘I'll try again tomorrow.’” -

Mary Ann Radmacher

Scientific Hero

Marie Curie

Favorite Paper

Cousins, R.D. “Why isn’t every physicist a Bayesian?” American Journal of Physics 63, 398 (1995)

If you could be a piece of lab equipment, what would you be?

"I would be the FluidFM. This instrument is finicky, stubborn, and a bit out of place as a physics instrument in biology. But it’s also reliable, adaptable, and capable of doing amazing work."

Liza's Research

Liza's research focuses on studying the fundamentals of the innate immune response using Fluidic Force Microscopy (FluidFM). FluidFM technology allows for local chemical or mechanical stimulation of target cells with minimal disturbance of their environment and simultaneous monitoring with live-cell microscopy. Currently, Liza works with macrophages to study their sensitivity to pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). Macrophages serve an important function in the early immune response by detecting signs of infection and alerting and recruiting other immune cells to initiate a wider immune response. Liza wants to better understand macrophage sensitivity to PAMPs and the role of environmental factors on that sensitivity, including the proximity of other macrophages. Traditional experiments either isolate the cells or stimulate them collectively, but with the FluidFM Liza can provide a localized stimulus to an otherwise undisturbed culture. This gives her better control over the cell environment, the temporal and spatial extent of the stimulus, allowing her to investigate questions that would otherwise be experimentally difficult, and potentially giving new insights into the role of macrophages as “pathogen-detectors.”

Lab Publications

Nanovaccine that activates the NLRP3 inflammasome enhances tumor specific activation of anti-cancer immunity.  Manna S, Maiti S, Shen J, Weiss A, Mulder E, Du W, Esser-Kahn AP. Biomaterials. 2023 May 1;296:122062.

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