​B.S. Saint Francis College (now the University of Saint Francis), 1986Ph.D. ​University of Arizona, 1993Post-Doc ​University of Vermont, 1994-1997

"We work to understand and prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and to better train the next generation of engineers and clinicians."

William H. Guilford, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Will Guilford uses molecular biomechanics and engineering design to better understand and better prevent the movement of single cells and the spread of drug-resistant pathogens. He attended Saint Francis College in Fort Wayne Indiana where he double-majored in Biology and Chemistry. He subsequently studied Physiology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, and under the direction of Robert W. Gore (Emeritus) investigated the mechanics of ateriole-interstitium interactions. Will completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Vermont with renowned biophysicist Dr. David M. Warshaw, studying the mechanics of smooth and skeletal muscle myosins using a laser trap transducer. He began in 1997 his faculty appointment at the University of Virginia in the School of Medicine, Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Will's research goal is to understand the molecular mechanisms by which cells move. His lab measures the mechanics of these processes at the level of individual molecules using a laser trap as an important experimental tool. With a laser trap, small translucent particles can be captured and held in three-dimensional space. The laser trap may also be used to measure the elasticity, distance moved, or force generated by single protein molecules. Will is currently focused on studying the movement between and invasion of cells by intracellular pathogens. His lab developed a novel experimental platform combining the laser trap with the intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii that allows them to study the biomechanics and coordination of molecular motors inside the living cell. His lab also works with physicians in Infectious Disease to design means for preventing the spread of pathogens within patient populations.

Will recently served as Director of Educational Innovation in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. In that role he oversaw the online educational programs of the School (12th ranked nationally), and the School's experiential education programs.

Most recently Will was appointed Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs in the School of Engineering.  There he seeks to advance the use of high-impact practices, to inspire students to engage outside of the classroom, and to support students in all ways to achieve their goals. Will has received numerous awards for teaching and for service to students, including the Harold S. Morton Award for Teaching, and the 2013 UVA Distinguished Professor Award. He is continually developing improved pedagogical approaches, particularly in the area of design, and better approaches to learning assessment. He also directs UVa's Beckman Scholars Program, and the BME Clinical Scholars program funded by the NIH. 


  • Theo C Pilkington Award Outstanding Educator Award, American Society for Engineering Education 2021
  • Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering 2021
  • Frontiers of Engineering Education, NAE 2016
  • Best Presentation Award, ASEE, First-year Programs Division 2015
  • Best Paper, 2nd place Award, ASEE, First-year Programs Division 2015
  • Hartfield – Jefferson Scholars Teaching Prize, Jefferson Scholars Foundation 2014
  • Best Paper Award, ASEE, Bioengineering Division 2014
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award, Wauseon High School, Ohio 2014
  • Distinguished Professor Award, UVa, Alumni Association 2013
  • Seven Society Honoree , UVa, Seven Society 2012
  • Harold S. Morton Award for Teaching, UVa, School of Engineering 2012
  • Best Paper Award, ASEE, Bioengineering Division 2011
  • Most Dedicated Professor Award, UVa, Biomedical Engineering 2010
  • Academy of Distinguished Educators, UVa, School of Medicine 2005
  • Finalist, Teaching Excellence Awards, State Council for Higher Ed. in Virginia 2005
  • All University Outstanding Teaching Award, UVa 2004
  • Institutional Research Fellowship, University of Virginia (UVa) 1997
  • Graduate Academic Scholarship, UA 1992
  • Meritorious Performance in Teaching, UA Foundation 1991, 1992
  • Most Outstanding Performance by a Teaching Assistant, University of Arizona (UA), Medicine 1991, 1992
  • Research Participation Program , Argonne National Laboratory 1986

Research Interests

  • Cellular and Molecular Engineering
  • Cell and Molecular Biomechanics
  • Infectious Disease
  • Clinical and Translational Science
  • Quantitative Biosciences
Will Guilford, UVA Engineering assistant dean of undergraduate education

Will Guilford, UVA Engineering's assistant dean of undergraduate education and professor of biomedical engineering, leads a practice Zoom session for his students just before the start of online instruction in March 2020. Photo from UVA President Jim Ryan's video courtesy of UVA Communications.

In the News

Selected Publications

  • Direct measurement of cortical force generation and polarization in a living parasite. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 2017 July 7; 28(14):1912-23 ABS Stadler RV, White LA, Hu K, Helmke BP, Guilford WH.
  • Spread from the Sink to the Patient: in situ Study Using Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) Expressing- Escherichia coli to Model Bacterial Dispersion from Hand Washing Sink Trap Reservoirs. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 2017 AEM.03327-16 ABS Kotay S, Chai W, Guilford WH, Barry K, Mathers AJ
  • Direct Regulation of Striated Muscle Myosins by Nitric Oxide and Endogenous Nitrosothiols. PLoS ONE. 2010 Jun 18;5(6):e11209. ABS Evangelista AM, Rao VS, Filo AR, Marozkina NV, Doctor A, Jones DR, Gaston B, Guilford WH.
  • The reciprocal coordination and mechanics of molecular motors in living cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2009 Mar 3;106(9):3190–5. Laib J, Marin J, Bloodgood R, Guilford WH.
  • Mechanics of actomyosin bonds in different nucleotide states are tuned to muscle contraction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2006;103(26):9844–9. ABS Guo B, Guilford WH.
  • “Shrink wrapping” lectures: teaching cell and molecular biology within the context of human pathologies. Cell Biology Education 2005;4(2):138–42. ABS Guilford WH.
  • Quantitative comparison of algorithms for tracking single fluorescent particles. Biophysical Journal. 2001 Oct;81(4):2378–88. ABS Cheezum MK, Walker WF, Guilford WH.

Courses Taught

  • BME 2101, Physiology 1 for Engineers
  • BME 2000, BME Design and Discovery
  • ENGR 1620, Introduction to Engineering