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Dr. Tania Betancourt


Director of the PREM Center for Intelligent Materials Assembly

Office: CENT 340E

Office phone: (512) 245-7703


Lab: CENT 343

Lab Phone: (512) 245-1412

Fax: (512) 245-2374

Educational Background

B.S. Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) 2002

M.S. Biomedical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX) 2005

Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX) 2007

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX) 2008

Honors and Awards

Nominee, 2021 and 2022 Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activities 

Recipient, 2021 Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activities 

Nominee, 2018 Presidential Award for Excellence in Service 

Recipient, College of Science and Engineering 2015 Presidential Distinction Award for Excellence in Service 

Research Corporation for Science Advancement Cottrell College Single Investigator Award, 2012

Magna Cum Laude honor graduation in Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University, 2002

Recipient, American Chemical Society Scholars Program Scholarship, 1999-2002

Member, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society

Member, Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society of the Two Year College

Areas of Interest

Polymeric Biomaterials


Drug Delivery Systems

Stimuli-Responsive Hydrogels

Nucleic Acid Enabled Biomaterials

Related Web Sites

Betancourt Research Group Webpage

PREM Center for Intelligent Materials Assembly 

Research in the Betancourt Group

Research in the Biomaterials and Nanomedicine Laboratory focuses on capturing the promise of nanomaterials for the development of new strategies for the detection and treatment of diseases. Specifically, our group develops functional nanostructures that can act as highly specific contrast agents for bioimaging, in vitro and in vivo biosensors, targeted and intracellular drug delivery systems, and stimuli controlled delivery systems. These responsive nanomaterials incorporate functional nucleic acid linkers, enzymatically cleavable linkers, polyelectrolytes, and amphiphilic copolymers to mediate physico-chemical changes in the polymeric networks upon interaction with target molecules, leading to the desired material response. Work in the laboratory encompasses the synthesis and characterization of copolymers and nanoparticles, in vitro confirmation of stimuli-responsive behavior, and the evaluation of the particle functionality on cultured human cells. Dr. Betancourt’s group collaborates with academic and industrial researchers for preclinical evaluation of the compatibility and efficacy of the developed biomaterials and technology transfer.
Current projects in Dr. Betancourt’s laboratory include the development of: (1) stimuli-responsive hydrogels that can be activated with external or disease-specific stimuli and which have applications as functional materials for on-demand drug delivery, wound healing, and tissue engineering; (2) highly specific nanoparticle-based near infrared contrast agents, drug delivery systems, and photo-ablative agents for the detection and treatment of cancer and other diseases.
 As researchers in our laboratory, students will be involved in the:
  • Design of novel biomaterials that have specific properties at the molecular level to mediate their interaction with tissues, cells, and biomolecules.
  • Synthesis of linear and branched biocompatible copolymers by polymerization and conjugation techniques and characterization by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy
  • Preparation of nanostructures and characterization via dynamic light scattering, scanning and electron microscopy, and absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy.
  • Functionalization of nanostructures with fluorescent molecules, targeting agents, or shielding molecules to improve their bioactivity.
  • In vitro confirmation of the function of the nanstructures by investigating their behavior as a function of pH, enzymatic activity, ligand concentration, temperature, or external triggers.
  • Evaluation of the nanostructure potential for biomedical purposes by studying the compatibility (nontoxicity) and interaction of these structures with cultured cell models of disease through biochemical assays, and optical/fluorescence microscopy.

Recent Publications

Haya, G.; Runsewe, D. O.; Otakpor, M. U.; Pohlman, G. E.; Towne, A.; Betancourt, T.; Irvin, J. A. Functionalized Thiophene-Based Aptasensors for the Electrochemical Detection of Mucin-1. ACS Applied Polymer Materials 20235, 1208-1218Link

Heshmati Aghda, N.; Dabbaghianamiria, M.; Tunnell, J. W.; Betancourt, T. Design of Smart Nanomedicines for Effective Cancer Treatment. Int. J. Pharm. 2022621, 121791. Link

Runsewe, D. O.; Haya, G.; Irvin, J. A.; Betancourt, T. Conducting Polymer-Based Electrochemical Aptasensor for the Detection of Adenosine. ACS Applied Polymer Materials 20213, 6674-6683. Link

Heshmati Aghda, N.; Torres Hurtado, S.; Abdulsahib, S. M.; Lara, E. J.; Tunnell, J.; Betancourt, T. Dual Photothermal/Chemotherapy of Melanoma Cells with Albumin Nanoparticles Carrying Indocyanine Green and Doxorubicin Leads to Immunogenic Cell Death. Macromol. Biosci. 2021, 2100353, Link

Nguyen, H. T. M.; Katta, N.; Widman, J. A.; Takematsu, E.; Feng, X.; Torres-Hurtado, S. A.; Betancourt, T.; Baker, A. B.; Suggs, L. J.; Milner, T. E.; Tunnells, J. W. Laser Nanobubbles Induce Immunogenic Cell Death in Breast Cancer. Nanoscale202113, 3644-3653. Link

Rastogi, S. K.; Zhao, Z.; Gildner, M. B.; Shoulders, B.; Velasquez, T. L.; Blumenthal, M. O.; Wang, L.; Li, X.; Hudnall, T. W.; Betancourt, T.; Du, L.; Brittain, W. J. Synthesis, Optical Properties and in vitro Cell Viability of Novel Spiropyrans and their Photostationary States. Tetrahedron 2021, 80, 131854. Link

Huff, M. E.; Gokmen, F. O.; Barrera, J. S.; Lara, E. J.; Tunnell, J.; Irvin, J.; Betancourt, T. Induction of Immunogenic Cell Death in Breast Cancer by Conductive Polymer Nanoparticle-Mediated Photothermal Therapy. ACS Appl. Polym. Mater. 2020, 2, 5602-5620. Link

Heshmati Aghda, H.; Abdulsahib, S. M.; Severson, C.; Lara, E. J.; Torres Hurtado, S.; Yildiz, T.; Castillo, J. A.; Tunnell, J. W.; Betancourt, T. Induction of Immunogenic Cell Death of Cancer Cells Through Nanoparticle-Mediated Dual Chemotherapy and Photothermal Therapy. Int. J. Pharm. 2020589, 119787. Link