B.S. ​Oglethorpe University, 1995M.S. ​University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1999Ph.D. ​University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2003Post-Doc ​University of Washington and the Hope Heart Institute, 2003-2004 and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, 2004-2006
Thomas barker, Professor of BME

"We develop therapeutics to fibrosis, or scar formation. While scars of the skin might be unsightly, scars in organs, like the lung, kill people."

Thomas H. Barker, Professor

Thomas Barker explores and therapeutically exploits the fundamental links between fibroblast adaptation to their physical and biochemical microenvironment and their myofibroblastic differentiation during tissue repair, fibrosis and cancer. Dr. Barker is a Professor in Biomedical Engineering in the Schools of Engineering and Medicine at the University of Virginia. He performed his academic and scientific training with Drs. James Hagood, Joanne Murhpy-Ullrich, Helene Sage, and Jeffrey Hubbell prior to his first faculty post at Georgia Institute of Technology, where he spend 10 years as an Assistant and Associate Professor. Dr. Barker’s research integrates engineering and quantitative approaches with basic cell and molecular biology to understand and control cell phenotype through their interactions with natural and engineered extracellular matrices. Dr. Barker is also focused on understanding the fundamental roles of cell mechanotransduction and mechanical forces in regulating the biochemical activity of proteins in the extracellular matrix toward wound repair, regeneration, and fibrosis. Dr. Barker has established a number of fundamental systems based on rational mutagenesis, molecular evolution of extracellular matrix protein fragments and antibodies that allow both basic biochemical and cell biological studies on the ECM and detection and treatment of organ fibrosis. Dr. Barker has co-authored research and review papers in leading cell biology, matrix biology, and biomaterials journals, he received the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award in 2015. Dr. Barker was also the recipient of the American Society for Matrix Biology’s Young Investigator Award in 2012 and Iozzo Award in 2016.


  • NASA Space Fellow, GSRP, Division of Physical and Biological Sciences, NASA HQ 2002
  • Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellow, NIGMS 2004
  • Walter A. Rosenblith New Investigator Award, Health Effects Institute 2008
  • American Society for Matrix Biology, Young Investigator Award 2012
  • NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award 2015
  • American Society for Matrix Biology, Iozzo Award 2016
  • College of Fellows, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering 2017

Research Interests

  • Mechanotransduction
  • Cell and Molecular Biomechanics
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Fibrosis

In the News

Selected Publications

  • Dynamic assembly of ultrasoft colloidal networks enables cell invasion within restrictive fibrillar networks. PNAS (2017) Douglas AM, Hyatt JS, Gaines M, Lyon LA, Fernandez-Nieves A, Barker TH.
  • Ultrasoft microgels displaying emergent platelet-like behaviors. Nature Materials doi: 10.1038/nmat4066, (2014) Brown AC, Stabenfeldt SE, Ahn B, Hannan RT, Dhada KS, Herman ES, Stefanelli V, Guzzetta N, Alexeev A, Lam WA, Lyon LA, Barker TH.
  • Dynamic catch of a Thy-1-a5b1-syndecan-4 trimolecular complex. Nature Communications 5:4886 (2014) Fiore VF, Ju L, Chen Y, Zhu C, Barker TH.
  • Conformational coupling of integrin and Thy-1 regulates Fyn priming and fibroblast mechanotransduction. J Cell Biol 211(1):173-90 (2015) Fiore VF, Strane PW, Bryksin AV, White ES, Hagood JS, Barker TH.
  • Acellular Normal and Fibrotic Human Lung Matrices as a Culture System for In Vitro Investigation. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 186(9):866-76 (2012) Booth, AJ, Hadley R, Cornett AM, Dreffs AA, Matthes SA, Tsui JL, Weiss K, Horowitz JC, Fiore VF, Barker TH, Moore BB, Martinez FJ, Niklason LE, White ES.

Courses Taught

  • BME 2104 Cell and Molecular Biology for Engineers
  • BME 3030 Design and Innovation in Medicine

Featured Grants & Projects

  • National Institutes of Health (NHLBI), R01-HL130918

    “Platelet-like Particle for Augmenting Hemostasis”

  • Department of Defense, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), PR141573

    “Development of Platelet-like Particle for Augmentation of Hemostasis in Congenital Heart Defect Patients at High Risk for Bleeding During Cardiac Surgery.”

  • National Institutes of Health, NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award (NHLBI), R01-HL132585

    “Mechanosensors that detect and treat lung fibrosis.”

  • National Institutes of Health (NHLBI), R01-HL127283

    “Targeting the alpha v integrin mechanotransduction axis in IPF.”