Profile Photo

James McGrath

  • William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Biomedical Engineering

PhD, Harvard-MIT, 1998

Office Location
306 Goergen Hall
(585) 273-5489
(585) 273-4746
Web Address


Professor McGrath graduated from Arizona State in 1991 with a BS degree in mechanical engineering. He earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering from MIT in 1994 and a PhD in biological engineering from Harvard/MIT's Division of Health Sciences and Technology in 1998. He then trained as a Distinguished Post-doctoral Fellow in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University. Since 2001, Professor McGrath has been on the Biomedical Engineering faculty at the University of Rochester and served the department for over 10 years as the first director of the BME graduate program.

While historically, Professor McGrath's research focused on the phenomena of cell migration, since 2007 he has been leading the Nanomembrane Research Group - a highly interdisciplinary, multi-institutional team that is developing and applying ultrathin silicon ‘nanomembrane' technologies. Professor McGrath is also a co-founder and past president of SiMPore Inc. a company founded to commercially manufacture the nanomembranes. In 2023 he was appointed the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professorship. He was also a recipient of the Edmund A. Hajim Outstanding Faculty Award in 2019, and in 2015 he was elected as a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE).

Research Overview

The Nanomembrane Research Group (NRG) includes students, engineers, scientists, faculty and entrepreneurs at UR, a local nanomembrane manufacturer SiMPore Inc., and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and a growing network of academic and industry collaborators from around the world. Together, we have grown a serendipitous material discovery into a growing Rochester-based enterprise. 

We introduced the first practical ultrathin freestanding nanoporopus membranes at the University of Rochester in 2007. Today, we manufacture and apply a variety of nanoporous and microporous membranes with the common characteristics that they are ultrathin (15 nm - 400 nm) and made with silicon-based manufacturing. Because these 'nanomembranes' are orders-of-magnitude thinner than conventional membranes, they are orders-of-magnitude more permeable to both diffusing molecules and pressurized flows. Molecular scale thickness also enhances the resolution of separations when the membranes are used as sieves. The silicon platform enables the ready assembly of membranes into devices using easily customized, but also highly scalable, layer-by-layer assembly. The unique properties of silicon nanomembranes have sparked paradigm-shifting research programs in:

1) biological tissue models
2) small format hemodialysis
3) biosensors
4) electrokinetic devices

In addition to these applications, our team focuses on the basic science of ultrathin membranes including studies of transport and mechanics. 

Research Interests

  • Microphysiological systems, nanomembranes for diagnostics, and microfluidics