Dr. Leyla Sabet


I was born in Tehran Iran. During high school I realized that I have strong interest in mathematics and sciences. With this interest in mind I pursued a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at University of Tehran, Iran. During my undergraduate studies I was involved in research in computational fluid mechanics and worked specifically on generating elliptic grid with multigrid method for a faster and optimized grid for simulations with Professor Vahid Esfahanian. For my graduate studies I knew I wanted to do experimental work. In 2005 I joined university of California at Los Angeles to pursue my PhD degree under the supervision of professor Chih Ming Ho. During my PhD I have developed molecular biosensors for diagnostics and environmental monitoring. The optical biosensor for oral cancer diagnostics has been ranked #4 in “20 new biotech breakthroughs that will change medicine” by Popular Mechanics magazine. I have also worked on optimization of biofuel production from microalgae by utilizing feedback system control (FSC). I have always had interest in transferring technologies from the bench to the marketplace. Consequently I have taken classes in the business and management side of technology and science and have been involved with the Business of Science Center (BSC) at UCLA.

Research Intereststop

My research has been focused on sensing biomolecular signals and controlling the bio system towards a desired state, specifically for a green energy project. I have developed many different detection techniques for reading the signals from a variety of target molecules. Signal outputs from these detection methods can be used for diagnosing diseases or for monitoring the bio system responses.
In my PhD work, I first setup a confocal optical setup capable of single molecule detection, the principle of which was used along with a sandwich assay to detect IL-8 protein, a biomarker for early oral cancer diagnosis. For a benchmark comparison, the commercially ELISA test kit has the sensitivity of 1.0 pM. Our confocal microscopy based sensor, with 4.0 fM limit of detection (LOD) improved the sensitivity by more than two orders of magnitude.
I have also applied the molecular sensing to detect Domoic Acid (DA), a small molecule toxin, produced by Pseudo Nitzschia algae. The sensitivity of our sensor developed is 1 pg/ml, which is ten times better than that of the commercially available kits at 10 pg/ml. This capability allows us to detect DA produced by small number of algae or even a single alga. We also developed a microfluidics device that can trap and lyse single and small population of the algae. An ultrasonication bath, along with the microfluidic device is used to break open the long and slender silica halves of the Pseudo Nitzschia cells. This microfluidic based ultra sensitive sensor can advance the understanding of how the algae produce the toxin for environmental protection concerns.
Equipped with these molecular sensing capabilities, I then work on a green energy project with the aim of optimizing the production of bio-fuel by botryococcus braunii. This type of algae can store high percentage of lipids that can be extracted and converted into gasoline and oil. With utilization of a feedback system control (FSC) scheme, we identified combination of concentrations that not only perform better than the existing culture media but also are chemically defined. To get our results we used only 5 iterations and one week was the length of the iteration.


PhD, UCLA, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Mechanical Engineering, (April 2011)
     Major Field: Micro-electrical-mechanical systems (MEMS) & Nanotechnology
     Minor Field: Molecular Engineering

M.S. UCLA, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Mechanical Engineering, MEMS (June 2006)

B.S. University of Tehran, Iran, Mechanical Engineering, emphasis on Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer, (February 2004)

Work Experiencetop

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Patents and Publicationstop

1. Tan, W., Sabet, L., Li, Y., Yu, T., Klokkevold, P.R., Wong, D.T., and Ho, C.-M., “Optical Protein Sensor for Detecting Cancer Markers in Saliva”, Biosensors and Bioelectronics, Vol. 24, pp. 266 – 271, 2008.

2. Sabet, L., Tan, W., Wei, F., and Ho, C.M., “Reading Cancer-Specific Signatures”, SPIE Newsroom, DOI: 10.1117/2.1200809.1327.

3. C. Wu, P.B. Lillehoj, L. Sabet, P Wang and C.M. Ho, “Lysis of single and multiple Pseudo-nitzschia by ultrasonication on a microfluidic chip” Biotechnology Journal. 6, 150-155, 2011.

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Contact Infotop

Mailing Address:
15-155 Engineering IV
420 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Phone: (310) 825-9540
Fax: (310) 825-1350
Email: lsabet at ucla.edu